Abstract: Informing Peer Support Programming for Active Duty Military Spouses and Commited Partners (Society for Social Work and Research 28th Annual Conference - Recentering & Democratizing Knowledge: The Next 30 Years of Social Work Science)

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320P Informing Peer Support Programming for Active Duty Military Spouses and Commited Partners

Friday, January 12, 2024
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Abby Blankenship, PhD, Assistant Professor of Research, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Anil Arora, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Aubrey Harvey, BA, Research Assistant, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Elisa Borah, PhD, Research Associate Professor; Director, University of Texas at Austin, Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness, Austin, TX

Active-duty military spouses face enormous stressors while supporting and adapting to the ever-shifting careers of their service member. Military service is characterized by long duty hours, frequent trainings, relocations, and deployments all of which put a strain on individual, marital, parental, and family functioning (Green et al., 2013). Perceived lack of support is associated with problematic health behaviors (Corry et al. 2019) and psychological distress among military spouses (Green et al., 2013). Peer support is programming that assumes individuals with shared experiences related better to one another and facilitate effective giving and receiving of help. Such programs not only increase perceived social support, but also improve mental health functioning (Repper and Carter, 2011). The Veteran Spouse Resiliency Group (V-SRG) is a peer-based program designed to foster community, deliver resource education, and promote skills acquisition geared toward the unique needs of veteran spouses. Participation in V-SRG is associated increased levels of quality of life and social support and lower levels of depression. While participation in V-SRG has resulted in promising outcomes with veteran spouses, military spouses face different challenges and have different needs. The current study used a qualitative research approach to understand: (1) The challenges and benefits of military life; (2) The needs of military spouses; and (4) The recommendations for adapting the V-SRG curriculum.


Participants included 23 individuals who were married or in a committed partnership with an active duty service member. All potential participants were recruited through advertisements disseminated directly to active duty military spouses and through social media. All interviews were conducted on Zoom by master’s- or doctoral-level individuals with expertise in military health and were recorded and transcribed.


A general inductive approach (Thomas, 2006) was used to analyze the current dataset. The transcripts were repeatedly read by a doctoral-level psychologist (A), pre-doctoral level graduate assistant (B), and a bachelor’s-level research assistant (C) to develop upper-level categories which were derived from the content of our research questions. Our upper-level categories include challenges of military life, benefits of military life, programming needs, and recommendations for peer support programing. Lower-level categories are currently being developed. Text will be segmented, and a doctoral-level psychologist (A) and a pre-doctoral-level social work graduate assistant (B) will read and independently code data based on the later developed lower-level categories.

Initial reading of transcripts and analysis indicate inability to maintain consistent employment, responsibility for all facets of home life, and the lack of understanding of military life from non-military connected peers as “challenges to military life.” The military community experience, access to healthcare, and unique experiences through relocations were cited as “benefits of military life.” Better access to information about available resources for military families and information about specialty health resources were identified as “programming needs.” Brief programming, access to childcare, and representation of all types of military spouses were among some of the “recommendations for peer support programming.”


These data will be used to adapt a military spouse-informed peer support curriculum.