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Exploring On-Campus Peer Social Support as a Mediator between Attachment and Posttraumatic Stress in Military and Veteran Students Open Access

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Following the passage of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill in 2008, U.S. military service members and veterans have been enrolling at institutions of higher education at rapidly increasing rates (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2014). As a result, campus administrators and mental health professionals are seeking new and better ways to support this growing population (Coll & Weiss, 2015). The few existing studies on the mental health of military-affiliated students suggest they feel isolated on campus (DiRamio, Ackerman, & Mitchell, 2008) and are more likely than civilian peers to experience depression, posttraumatic stress (PTS), and suicidal ideation (Barry, Whiteman, McDermid Wadsworth, & Hitt, 2012; Rudd, Goulding, & Bryan, 2011). The current study explored the role of two different types of on-campus peer social support—military and civilian—in mediating the relationship between adult attachment orientation and posttraumatic stress, as well as its correlate, hazardous alcohol use. Data was collected via Web-based, self-report survey from 221 military and veteran students across the United States. Latent variable path analyses indicated that civilian peer social support mediated the relationship between attachment anxiety and PTS, but only partially, underscoring the enduring role of adult attachment orientation in the response to trauma. Psychometric issues limited the testing of models that included military peer social support. Results are discussed in the context of potential on-campus counseling interventions and resources.

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