ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work


Social Work

First Advisor

Rebecca Mauldin


Military veterans experience a transition process when returning to civilian life that involves reintegration across life domains. Reintegration has been shown to be a significant challenge for a contingent of former servicemembers that can be exacerbated by an erosion of social support networks. Difficulty accessing peers due to wider social trends away from community connectedness and geography have inspired the creation of virtual gathering spaces for a wide range of populations. The emerging evidence for peer-driven online support groups suggests the potential for facilitating development of new supportive interpersonal connections and improved access to tangible resources. The current study seeks to increase knowledge about behaviors driving interactions among veterans in online support groups. To accomplish this, the dissertations’ theoretical framework called the Networked Neo-Ecological Framework is developed using foundations from Bioecological Theory, Neo-Ecological Theory, and Networked Ecological Models. This Networked Neo-Ecological Framework is used as a lens for identifying mechanisms contributing to participation, peer support, and negative interactions in an online support group for veterans. Descriptive statistics are used to examine the conversational topics and comment engagement in the support group. Relational event modeling is employed to examine the network structural mechanisms associated with three types of interactions: general participation, peer support, and negative interactions. Findings suggest that peer support is most strongly associated with the mechanism of interactional reciprocity and that volatility may contribute to negative interactions. Implications for social work practice include using online support groups as a potential source of information for determining what topical areas of need may exist for veterans and what factors social workers might consider in implementing online support group interventions. Research implications are presented detailing how web scraping and social network analyses can be used in conjunction to examine people in their digital environments. Implications for social work policy include recommendations for moderation policies in online support groups and other online service delivery systems. The implications for social work education include incorporating the Neo-Ecological Theory as a supplement to the dated Ecological model to help students understand how development occurs in the context of their digital and physical environments.


Veterans, Peer support, Social network analysis, Relational event modeling


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Available for download on Thursday, December 12, 2024

Included in

Social Work Commons