(334) 844-3299
Detailed Record
Share this Article

Social causation or social erosion? Evaluating the association between social support and PTSD among veterans in a transition program

APA Citation:

Cox, D. W., Baugh, L. M., McCloskey, K. D., & Iyara, M. (2018). Social causation or social erosion? Evaluating the association between social support and PTSD among Veterans in a transition program. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 5(1), 71-79. https://doi.org/10.3138/jmvfh.2017-0040

Abstract Created by REACH:

Previous research has shown that higher levels of social support have been associated with lower levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – and vice versa. This study aimed to understand which of two models better explains this pattern. The social causation model proposes that social supports impact PTSD by providing a safe space for recovering from trauma, whereas the social erosion model assumes that the symptoms of PTSD (e.g., irritability, withdrawal) may impact social supports by pushing away friends/family and causing individuals to mistrust their potential social supports. The current study used longitudinal data (pre-program, post-program, 3-month follow-up) to analyze a sample (N = 218) of Canadian veterans participating in an intervention program to help them transition to civilian life. The intervention was a 10-day program (eight hours each day) focused on emotional, interpersonal, and career-related challenges faced by veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. Overall, findings situated within an intervention context were better explained by the social erosion model.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

International Military

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



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


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study


Cox, D. W., Baugh, L. M., McCloskey, K. D., Iyara, M.


ntroduction: Social support’s association with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Veterans is well established. One explanation for this link is social causation – support inhibits PTSD. Inversely, within the social erosion model, PTSD erodes support. The aim of the present study was to examine if the social causation or social erosion model better explained the association between support and PTSD within a psychosocial intervention context. Methods: Veterans (N = 218) participating in a multimodal transition program were assessed pre-program, post-program, and at 3-month follow-up on their perceived social support and PTSD symptoms. We used path analysis to conduct a three-wave cross-lagged panel model to compare the social erosion and social causation models. Results: PTSD symptoms were associated with attenuated improvements in social support, while social support was not associated with increased reductions in PTSD symptoms. This association was observed from pre- to post-program and from post-program to follow-up. Discussion: These findings support the social erosion model over the social causation model. Clinical implications of PTSD inhibiting interpersonal gains are discussed.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


PTSD, Program, Veterans, Social support

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  August 2019

This website uses cookies to improve the browsing experience of our users. Please review Auburn University’s Privacy Statement for more information. Accept & Close