WWII to Iraq: perceptions of social support and relationship to the narrative coherence of war memories

Karen Burnell, P. Coleman, N. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Aim This qualitative study investigated the role social support plays in achieving narrative coherence, and therefore, reconciliation of traumatic war memories. Method Twenty-three male veterans (40-86 years of age) of World War II through to the current Iraq War participated in semi-structured one-to-one interviews concerning perceptions of social support during and after service. Narrative analysis was applied to the interviews at two levels; content and form. Content related to themes of social support, whilst narrative form assessed the coherence of war memories as indicative of reconciliation. Coherence was conceptualised as an oriented, structured, consistent in affect, and integrated narrative (Burnell, Hunt & Coleman, 2006). Findings Three groups were determined. These were; narrative coherence, reconciled narrative coherence, and narrative incoherence. For all groups, themes included the importance of comradeship, family support, and societal support. However, differences were discovered across groups. Veterans with coherent narratives indicated the importance of supportive familial and societal interactions, and communication throughout life. Veterans with reconciled coherence spoke of improving relationships and communication in later life. Veterans with incoherent narratives spoke of negative societal and familial interactions and the desire to communicate, but the absence of support to do so. Discussion Findings highlight potential factors related to achieving coherence after trauma. By increasing our understanding of reconciliation, interventions can be developed to promote the natural process of making meaning for veterans with traumatic memories.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2007
EventBritish Psychological Society Division of Health Psychology Conference - University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sept 200714 Sept 2007


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Division of Health Psychology Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityUniversity of Nottingham, Nottingham


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