The influence of social support on dyadic functioning and mental health among military personnel during postdeployment reintegration

Julie A. Cederbaum, Sherrie L. Wilcox, Kathrine Sullivan, Carrie Lucas, Ashley Schuyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Although many service members successfully cope with exposure to stress and traumatic experiences, others have symptoms of depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety; contextual factors may account for the variability in outcomes from these experiences. This work sought to understand mechanisms through which social support influences the mental health of service members and whether dyadic functioning mediates this relationship. Methods: We collected cross-sectional data as part of a larger study conducted in 2013; 321 military personnel who had at least 1 deployment were included in these analyses. Surveys were completed online; we collected data on demographic characteristics, social support, mental health measures (depression, PTSD, and anxiety), and dyadic functioning. We performed process modeling through mediation analysis. Results: The direct effects of social support on the mental health of military personnel were limited; however, across all types of support networks, greater social support was significantly associated with better dyadic functioning. Dyadic functioning mediated the relationships between social support and depression/PTSD only when social support came from nonmilitary friends or family; dyadic functioning mediated social support and anxiety only when support came from family. We found no indirect effects of support from military peers or military leaders. Conclusion: Findings here highlight the need to continue to explore ways in which social support, particularly from family and nonmilitary-connected peers, can bolster healthy intimate partner relationships and, in turn, improve the well-being of military service members who are deployed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-92
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dyadic functioning
  • PTSD
  • Reintegration
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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