Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

Disability Role Modeling

1. Are there physical similarities between, for example, those who sustain low back injuries?

The answer to this is an unqualified _yes._ There are genetic tendencies, within families, for the development of specific body types. Some body types are more often associated with predisposing vulnerability to certain types of injuries.

Thus, a tall, slender father who has sustained a lumbar injury may, indeed, produce a tall slender son who is vulnerable to the same injury.

Also, it is not unusual for descendants to engage in similar work as their parents. A mother who performed production work or a father who did construction work are more likely to produce children who work in similar vocations. They would be similarly vulnerable in high injury-risk occupations.

2. But I suspect you were also asking whether there are families with disabled members who produce successive generations of disabled individuals. And, again, the answer is _yes._

A father disabled by the time he is 30 may well produce children who view disability as either an inevitable outcome of life_or certainly not an unusual outcome. A child raised on workers_ compensation income, whose home was purchased by a workers_ compensation settlement, and whose same sex role-model was continually obtunded by pain is more likely to reproduce that pattern in a subsequent generation.

One example that always comes to mind was a tall thin, male who had sustained a mild back injury but perceived himself as permanently disabled. His father and two brothers were both permanently disabled. He was twenty-two years of age. His father and brothers had been disabled before age twenty-eight. He tearfully stated that he had always hoped to lead a long and productive career in construction, _working until I was maybe even thirty._

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