Relational Certainty: A Theoretical Framework Describing the Relationship between Military Veterans and Companion Canines

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 11:20 AM

Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN
College of Nursing- Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO, USA
Michael John Rice, PhD, RN, APRN-B, FAAN
College of Nursing Anschutz Medical Campus University of Colorado, Aurora, CO, USA


The purpose of this presentation is to describe the impact of relational certainty in human interactions as demonstrated by Companion Canines. Relational certainty is drawn from the adaptive stress responses military veterans’ display when reintegrating into society. The theory explains how veterans internally construct meaning of relationships, with the level of relational certainty indicating a balance of biological and social links. A model of relational certainty demonstrating the concepts and associations form the foundation of explaining the role of companion canines which match the theoretical and empirical postulates.  Discussion of the theory is systematized based on two main strands: nature and social nurture.  

Theory Development

The process used to develop this theory included derivation, synthesis, and analysis.  The development began with an in-depth review of existing literature on stress in the military veteran population.  This information was blended with the reports of military veterans on the value of companion canines. The information gathered was separated and blended to form two main theoretical strands: nature and social nurture. 

Linking to practice

The theoretical strands of the model are linked by pairs of predetermined genetically expressed responses and externally nurtured responses, or relagens. The relagens are comprised of varying amounts of partial genetic links and partial nurture links. If the genetic and nurture links are not balanced, or unduly affected by stress, then the opposing link compensates and becomes the dominant link altering the expression of relational activity. This then, without intervention, becomes the basis for replication and creates cycles of similar relationships expressions. Reports from the veterans on the value of canine companions indicate that they actions adhere to Weiss’ Social Provision Theory (1974) defined some of the key relational strategies: reliable alliance (assurance that one could be counted on in times of stress), reassurance of worth (recognition of the individual’s value), attachment (emotional closeness), social integration (a sense of belonging together), and opportunity for nurturance (providing comfort and assistance to). The basic nature of any human being is based on three antecedents of external relational certainty: 1) The level of stress associated with any recurring experience that affects the veteran’s emotional response and cognitive responses colored by prior experiences and perception; 2) Relagens expression capacity of the appraisal of external relational certainty- the process of placing a value on the certainty of the relationship within any given situation; 3) Relagens expression of the relational certainty- for or in coping with uncertain events.


This theory as demonstrated by canine companions is comprised of knowledge resulting from the experiences of military veterans, addresses a need for research, and suggests a balance of epigenetic and external social links for explaining the process of determining the certainty of any relationships to members within the military veteran population.