Date of Award

Spring 3-12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Paul Naso

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen Gould

Third Advisor

Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire



Children from military families comprise nearly 4% of the entire school-age population of the United States, and over 80% of those children attend public schools serving both military and nonmilitary student populations (Ruff and Keim, 2014). The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain an understanding of how high school students from military and nonmilitary families experience their social interaction. Primary data sources included individual interviews with 14 current or recent students of both groups and a focus group interview with nine current or recent high school students. Thematic analysis of the data led to four findings that illuminated the phenomenon of social interaction between students from both backgrounds. First, participants recognized the distinctive nature of their social experience and emphasized its deep and long-standing impact. Second, participants reported that they often needed to rely on their own intentional efforts to initiate and maintain interaction. Third, participants indicated that, from their perspectives, school personnel were not attentive to the nature and nuances of the distinctive social fabric. Finally, it appeared to them that leaders of both military and nonmilitary communities and school personnel did not adjust policies and practices to accommodate and build off the opportunities of this atypical social mix. The findings (a) indicate the need for school personnel and leaders of both communities to consciously facilitate social interaction of adolescents and (b) illuminate unrecognized opportunities in this context to foster mutual understanding, the pursuit of which is fundamental to life in a democracy.

Keywords: military and nonmilitary communities, adolescent social interaction, democratic education, leadership



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