Misguided social support? How Danish veteran families affected by PTSD experience formal and informal social support

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Existing literature highlights that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after military deployment not only affects the formerly deployed veteran, but when the veteran has a family, has detrimental effects on the entire family. While research suggests that social support can have a positive mediating effect on the impact of PTSD, we know little about how veteran families experience the impact of PTSD, and how this relates to their experiences of formal and informal social support. Drawing on a hermeneutic phenomenological framework, we addressed this gap by exploring perceptions and experiences of formal and informal social support in six Danish veteran families. We found veteran families to be closely involved with formal and informal social support structures. However, the social support available did not always match their needs or understandings of helpful social support. Some families experienced an overload of social support or perceived the provided social support as inappropriate or prescribed. We construe these three types of social support as misguided social support—support that did little to meet their actual needs—on the contrary. We discuss how families come to experience and understand social support as an overload, or as inappropriate or prescribed; and what it takes for social support not to be experienced as misguided. We suggest that in order to meet families’ social support needs, tailored social support and improved collaboration between (in)formal social support structures and veteran families may promote more meaningful social support of veteran families affected by PTSD.

TidsskriftSocial Sciences & Humanities Open
Udgave nummer1
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - 2023


  • Experiences, Family, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Social support, Veterans

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