The Relationship Between Dispositional Optimism and Cognitive, Psychiatric, and Functional Outcomes Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Open Access
Ramanathan, Deepa
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 06, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Frank Gerard Hillary, Thesis Advisor
  • traumatic brain injury
  • TBI
  • dispositional optimsim
  • brain injury outcome
  • functional outcome in TBI
  • optimism and outcome
Despite a vast literature on predictors of outcome and recovery following traumatic brain injury, the way in which personality relates to psychological, cognitive, and functional outcomes remains relatively unknown. The present study focused on how the personality trait of dispositional optimism relates to outcomes post-moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Given previous findings linking dispositional optimism with successful behavioral, psychological, and physical outcomes after adverse events, disease, and injuries, the current study aimed to examine the relationships between psychiatric symptoms, cognitive ability, and personality factors in predicting functional outcome following moderate and severe TBI. More specifically, it was expected that dispositional optimism would predict long-term functional outcome following TBI. In order to test these hypotheses, 45 individuals who had sustained moderate to severe TBI were recruited through mailings of flyers and letters. Volunteers that chose to be in the study participated in a telephone interview to complete self-report measures on current optimism, psychological distress, cognitive ability, and functional independence levels. Data analyses indicated that dispositional optimism was significantly correlated with psychiatric, cognitive, and functional outcomes, but that it did not account for unique variance in functional outcome. In addition, a significant mediating relationship was demonstrated showing cognitive ability as a mediator for the relationship between psychological distress and functional outcome. Furthermore, the data indicate that dispositional optimism predicts psychological distress, rather than functional outcome. These findings illustrate that higher levels of dispositional optimism in individuals sustaining moderate to severe TBI is related to better psychological, cognitive, and functional outcomes and that this personality trait may be a useful predictor of psychological distress following TBI.