Social Support Networks of Vietnam Veterans: A Typology of Social Relations


Name: Sarah Huffman

Rank: Maj

Organization: Henry M. Jackson Foundation

Performance Site: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 227

Year Published: 2016

Abstract Status: Final


Combat service has been associated with difficulties in personal, family, and community relations across multi-era veteran cohorts. Some researchers suggest contact with other veterans may act as mediators or moderators for social integration. Other researchers theorize that the strong emotional bonds forged during combat service are difficult to reproduce in civilian social networks leading to social isolation and degradation of social support networks.

We propose using a social network analysis (SNA) approach to examine the effects of long-term relationships with other combat veterans on the personal social support networks of Vietnam veterans who participate in a veteran’s service organization (VSO).

Our overall objective is to determine the structure of the personal social networks and the associated types of functional social support found among a group of Vietnam veterans who participate in a VSO.

Our rationale for the proposed research is that once we understand how personal social support networks are impacted by participation in VSOs we may be able to identify and test ways in which VSOs affect social integration.

This cross-sectional personal social support network study will use social support questionnaires designed to elicit data regarding personal social relations as well as relations within the VSO. SNA software packages will be utilized to examine these data to determine how veterans use VSOs for support and how VSOs affect personal social support networks.

This study will be the start of a program of research comparing multi-era veterans and defining how social support is affected by VSO participation with a goal of developing new interventions to address social issues among emerging veteran cohorts.

Our specific aims are:

AIM 1. Determine the size, density, diversity, multiplexity, and reciprocity of relationships and associated types of functional social support of the personal social networks of Vietnam veterans.

AIM 2. Determine the primary types of functional social support provided within the VSO.

AIM 3. Determine the core and periphery VSO members and the relationship to personal social support networks and types of functional social support.

Matching the TSNRP research priority of force health protection, this study focuses on the care of veterans and their families. Combat service is associated with social integration difficulties leading to degradation in the social support networks of veterans. This study may provide novel information on the social network structures and the functional social support of veterans who participate in a VSO. Our goal is to find new insights into the social support networks of veterans to effectively guide new social support interventions.


Final report is available on NTRL: