The Impact of Social Support on Resilience of Spousal Caregivers in Wounded Warrior Families

Open Access
Jennings-Kelsall, Victoria Sonoda
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 17, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Denise H. Solomon, Dissertation Advisor
  • Denise H. Solomon, Committee Chair
  • James Dillard, Committee Member
  • Jon F. Nussbaum, Committee Member
  • Amy Marshall, Outside Member
  • social support
  • caregiving
  • resilience
  • communication
  • stress
  • military
  • non-normative stress
  • social networks
The goal of this dissertation is to illuminate the resilient impact of supportive communication behavior within caregivers’ social networks. Military couples challenged by the stress of serious injury or illness, are an important context in which to understand the processes that promote resilience. Theory and research on social networks and social support are integrated to frame this investigation into the communicative processes through which individuals elicit and receive support from their networks to emerge resilient within the wounded warrior context. To begin, Chapter 1 introduces key concepts presented in this dissertation. This includes a description of the experience of caregiving in military families, an overview of the topic of resilience and is followed by a discussion about social networks and social support. Chapter 2 presents a review of the literature on non-normative stressors, social support, and coping. Specifically, I offer insights into the stressful nature of military families. In Chapter 3, I discuss the factors that reside within the spousal caregiver and their social network that influence their interactions and perceptions of support, and I propose a series of hypotheses linking these variables to resilient outcomes. Chapter 4 describes the methodology for the dissertation study and begins by describing participants, procedures, and the measures utilized in the three-phase study. In the first phase, information was collected from caregivers, which included soliciting the identities of up to six of their social network members. Phase two focused on gathering information from those network members, who described an interaction with the caregivers and reported on perceptions of the caregiver/network member relationship. Finally, phase three involved collecting the caregivers’ views of interactions reported by the network members, as well as the caregivers’ perceived stress level and current well-being. Chapter 4 concluded by summarizing the self-reported variables used to test the hypotheses proposed in Chapter 3. Chapter 5 reports the results of the preliminary analyses and the substantive analyses that test the hypotheses advanced in Chapter 3. The analyses revealed caregivers’ privacy concerns were associated with decreases in expression efficacy, whereas caregivers’ face concerns were associated with decreases in outcome efficacy. Furthermore, face concerns and outcome efficacy tended to correspond with an increase in anxiety over time. Results also revealed that network members’ proclivity to provide support was associated with decreased caregiver vigor, and increases in anxiety, depression, and distress. Network members’ perceptions of caregivers’ explicitness was positively and significantly related to increases in discrepancies between network member and caregivers’ perceptions of emotional, informational, network and esteem support sought. Both caregiver and network member perspectives of caregivers’ emotional interference predicted authenticity of network members’ expression and both caregivers and network members’ authenticity significantly predicted caregivers’ vigor, anxiety, and depression. Discrepancies in emotional support were also linked to increases in both anxiety and distress for the caregiver. Finally, Chapter 6 considers the implications of this dissertation and concludes with a discussion of the strengths and limitations that contextualize these conclusions.