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Communication in online forums about the experience and management of relational uncertainty in military life

APA Citation:

Knobloch, L. K., Basinger, E. D., Abendschein, B., Wehrman, E. C., Monk, J. K., & McAninch, K. G. (2018). Communication in online forums about the experience and management of relational uncertainty in military life. Journal of Family Communication, 18(1), 13-31. https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2017.1373355

Abstract Created by REACH:

Military couples may experience relational uncertainty (i.e., how sure or unsure individuals are about the nature of their relationship) especially given the challenges of military life (e.g., long separations, highly stressful environments). This study sought to qualitatively explore how military service members and their partners use online forums to discuss their relationship uncertainty and how they are supported by others (i.e., responders) in online settings. Researchers analyzed 1,794 pages of online forums related to relational uncertainty. Themes were identified and a theoretical framework (see below) was developed outlining how relationship uncertainty is managed in the context of military life with regard to seeking help in online forums and receiving support from individuals online.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Child of a service member or veteran
Guard/Reserve member
Military families
Parent of a service member or veteran
Spouse of service member or veteran


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Aged (65 yrs & older)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Very old (85 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)


Cross-Sectional Study
Qualitative Study


Knobloch, Leanne K., Basinger, Erin D., Abendschein, Bryan, Wehrman, Erin C., Monk, J. Kale, McAninch, Kelly G.


Relational uncertainty is an undeniable aspect of military life, but the literature lacks knowledge about the lived experiences of military couples. We examined how individuals communicate in online forums about relational uncertainty in military life using a grounded theory approach to analyze 1,794 pages of threads. Results demonstrated that posters detected deception and/or recognized change, which led to volatile emotions, and ultimately prompted them to seek help for managing relational uncertainty. Posters dealt with their questions by engaging in self-care, justifying the partner’s behavior, postponing action, and doing relationship work. In reply, responders provided emotional support by offering comfort and reframing change. They provided informational support by recommending that posters acknowledge deception, take care of themselves, consider the partner’s perspective, defer major changes, and work on the relationship. These findings advance theorizing about relational uncertainty and social support; they also suggest guidelines for helping military couples manage relational uncertainty.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis

Publication Type:

REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

Department of Communication, University of Illinois, LKK
Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, EDB
Department of Communication, University of Illinois, BA
Department of Communication, Missouri State University, ECW
Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Missouri, JKM
Department of Communication, University of Kentucky, KGM


military psychology, military personnel, family, military couples

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

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