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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractA review of the research literature concerning the role of the social network in health and illness has indicated little attention to studying the social networks of psychiatric patients. Even less attention has been given to the study of veteran psychiatric patients. In an effort to understand more about the supportive or non-supportive aspects of social networks, an exploratory study of 224 male veteran psychiatric patients was conducted in two settings--a general hospital and a large psychiatric hospital. A description of the social networks as perceived by the patients themselves was obtained through semi-structured interviews. Network analysis was used to examine the characteristics of veteran psychiatric patients' personal networks within the social context of needing assistance or support for psychosocial problems. Some aspects of network structure, such as size and availability of family-kin members, were addressed, as well as the nature and quality of network links. Findings indicated that patients had an ample number of family-kin sources to turn to for assistance but chose to turn to only a small number (three or less) of informal sources, including nuclear family, kin, or friends. Formal sources of support were found to play a predominate part in the networks of veteran psychiatric patients. Both the immediate family and institutions were considered to be important sources of help in times of need but a great deal of ambivalence was evident concerning the use of them. A factor analysis of the data identified five social network patterns. Three multiplex patterns emerged in which patients were likely to turn primarily to the nuclear family, to kin, or to significant others for support. Two other patterns were identified--an Anomie Pattern and a Self Versus Institution Pattern--in which neither informal nor formal sources were considered by patients to be sources of support. A stepwise regression was also performed to determine the relationship of selected background variables to choice of support pattern. The variables found to be potentially important predictors of the patterns were marital status, living situation, diagnosis, religious preference, religious practice, age, and history of previous treatment. Conclusions of the study have both clinical and theoretical importance. Findings point to the need for not only reviving or expanding the supportive functions of veteran psychiatric patients' networks, but in some instances the necessity of assisting patients in establishing new personal networks.
Degree ProgramGraduate College