Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Communicating Support: Where and how Army Spouses Seek Community

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Catherine Cassara (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Timothy Pogacar (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lynda Dee Dixon (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Mark A Earley (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Lara Martin Lengel (Committee Member)


Army spouses, both male and female, experience life stressors unparalleled in other populations. This thematic analysis of qualitative data from the 2004 US Army Research Institute's Survey of Army Families V uncovered ten main themes while exploring how Army spouses communicate and constitute social support. Through grounded theory framework, suggestions are made for supporting this understudied population (96% of whom are female) from the 1,823 open-ended responses received. Ten themes radiate out from the heart of the research question, how do Army spouses communicate and constitute social support? These are: the level of support perceived (or lacking), the types of support perceived (and lacking), support providers, information, knowledge, Family Readiness (Support) Groups, consistency, attitude toward the military lifestyle, media and the internet, and issues with the military itself. This study discusses those ten themes and then focuses on five additional findings.

As the first of those findings, utilizing a pentad of social support aspects (emotional, informational, instrumental, belonging, and nurturing social support) allowed for a legitimate assessment of the construct of social support; all five aspects applied in this study are necessary and sufficient. Also, future focus group research of this population ought to contain consistency, hypocrisy, rank, and FRG reform to be thorough. Additionally, extrapolation of findings to other populations might be acceptable, given certain considerations uncovered in this research. Communication scholars can and should apply their knowledge to assist army spouses in a myriad of ways discussed in the study in detail. Perhaps most importantly, social support of the army spouse could and should be increased by using a cultural lens which considers the Military Culture and the Military Dependent Culture as distinct and interrelated entities.