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The Coping Military

This study examines the extent to which daily hassles, major life events, and adaptive coping, predict academic, social and personal adjustment to the military. The military is a highly demanding and rigid culture where new officer cadets’ lose some of their identity and personal freedom, including control

of their environment (Scharf, Mayseless, & Kivenson-Baron, 2011). Additionally, they must wear uniforms, obey orders, adhere to high ethical standards and undergo regular inspections. Thus, unsurprisingly, due to the unique military environment, and the intense training, it is usually very difficult and stressful for new officer cadets to successfully transition from civilian life to military life in a short period of time (Xiao, Hen, & Hen, 2011; Israelashvili & Wegman-Rozi, 2007). The literature review indicates that maladjustment is common during the initial period of military training and can lead to negative consequences (Israelashvili & Wegman-Rozi, 2007; Dedic & Panic 2007; Martin, Williamson, Alfonso, & Ryan, 2006). For example, Beighley, Brown, & Thompson (1992) over their three year consecutive study of 139 360 U.S. Air force recruits, found that the most prevalent psychological problem for new officer cadets’ was adjustment disorder. Accordingly, Hoge, Lesikar,  Guevara, Lange, J Brundage, Engel, et al . (2002) reported that that one of the most leading hospital discharge for U.S military personnel from 1990-1999 was adjustment disorders.

An adjustment disorder is a type of mental disorder resulting from maladaptive, or unhealthy, responses to stressful or psychologically distressing life events. The stressor may be grossly traumatic or relatively minor, like loss of job, the end of a romantic relationship, or a serious accident or sickness. Coping strategies largely influence positive or negative adjustment. Coping refers to “cognitive and behavioural efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the internal and/or external demands that are created by a stressful event” (Riolli & Savicki, 2010, p.97). Moreover, there is no single unitary coping mechanism that fits all stressors; different stressors require different coping strategies (Riolli & Savicki, 2010). In fact, there is evidence that the exclusive application of any type of coping may lead to difficulties (Cheng, 2003; Riollo & Savicki, 2010). Lastly, individuals who keep a particular type of coping strategy or those who vary their strategies randomly tend to report more anxiety, and more psychosomatic symptoms than those who vary their coping strategies according to the nature of the stressful situation (Cheng, 2003).  Therefore, in the more recent literature on coping, researchers have moved toward a more integrative perspective that emphasizes the importance of multiple coping strategies through the concept of coping flexibility (Cheng, 2003; Bouteyre, Maurel, & Bernaud, 2007; Riolli & Savicki, 2010; Galatzer-Levy, Burton, & Bonanno, 2012). Coping flexibility is conceptualized as a good fit between the characteristics of coping strategy and the nature of stressful event (Cheng, 2003). Coping flexibility involves ability to change, and adapt coping strategies over time and across different stressful situation (Mukwato, Mweemba, Makukula,& Makoleka, 2010) For example, when layoffs are expected, a problem focused approach is probably the best  approach such as saving money, applying for other jobs, or working harder at the current job to reduce the likelihood of being let go. However, when someone dies, problem-focused strategies may not be very helpful for the bereaved. Dealing with the feeling of loss requires emotion-focused coping (McLeod, 2010). Riollo & Savicki (2010, p.99) put it nicely, “psychological adjustment may be less related to any specific coping strategy than to the individuals ability to draw upon a diverse set of effective strategies and to apply them flexibly.”

Accordingly, Kohn (1996) concept of adaptiveness involves the ability to cope flexibly between different stressors. As per Kohn, O’Brien-Wood, Pickering, & DeCicco (2003, p.112) “adaptiveness constitutes coping consistently so as to reduce stress, or, at worse, not aggravate. This would entail consistently acting appropriately for the circumstances, notable the controllability of the stressors encountered”. Additionally, adaptiveness requires a combination of judgement, determination and self-control. Judgement refers to the ability to distinguish between controllable and uncontrollable situations and to formulate appropriate coping strategies for each situation. That is, when it is appropriate to use problem solving or emotion avoidance coping for example.  Determination refers to being consistently able to carry out planned actions despite obstacles, notable in controllable situations. And self-control refers to being able to restrain oneself from taking ill-advised action in response to emotional impulse or provocation (Kohn, O’Brien-Wood, Pickering, & DeCicco, 2003). The concept parallel is acknowledged to Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous Serenity Prayer “serenity to accept what cannot be changed, courage to change what should be changed, and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other” (Bartlett, 1968, p.1024).  Research on adaptiveness indicates that adaptivness directly improves personal, social and academic adjustment among university students (Kohn, O’Brien Wood, Pickering, & Decicco, 2003; Kohn & Veras, 2001).  That is, individuals who score higher on adaptive coping are better adjusted and experience less daily stressors.  Therefore, adaptiveness is a desirable quality to promote in individuals (Kohn, O’Brien-Wood, & Pickering, 1997).

Hassles or everyday stressors are another influential predictor of adjustment. Generally, hassles are ‘‘…irritating, frustrating, distressing demands that, to some degree, characterize everyday transactions with the environment’’ (Kanner, Coyne, Schaefer, & Lazarus, 1981, p. 3). A growing number of studies provide extensive evidence of a significant relation between self reported levels of daily hassles and adjustment (Wolf, Elston, & Kissling, 1989; Kohn& Veres, 2001; Burks, Martin, & Martin, 1985; Bouteyre, Maural, & Bernaut, 2007; Gaudet, Clément, & Deuzeman, 2005). That is, individuals who experience more daily stressors in their day to day living are less adjusted.

In regards to adaptiveness and hassles, studies have found a strong correlation between adaptiveness and hassles (Kohn, Fillion, DeCicco, & Cunningham, 2001; Kohn & Veres, 2001; Kohn, O’Brien-Wood, & Pickering, 1997). Originally Kohn (1996) suggested that adaptiveness should buffer the adverse impact of stress, subsequent research suggests rather that adaptiveness has direct auspicious effects on outcome and indirect ones mediated by reduced hassles.   For example, Kohn and Veres (2001) data fit a model wherein hassles exposure partially mediated the auspicious effects of adaptiveness on students adjustment. In other words, adaptiveness negatively predicted hassles exposure, which in turn, negatively predicted adjustment to university. Additionally, they found that individuals high in adaptivness so organize their lives as to minimize hassles exposure, and retrospectively downplay their exposure to hassles (part2). Therefore, Kohn and Veres (part 2) propose that if one could increase adaptiveness then one could decrease both the experiences and perceptions of hassles exposure and hence become better adjusted and improve his or her wellbeing.

Hassles also appear to be more strongly related to psychological and physical health than major life events.  Studies have compared the extent to which daily life hassles versus major life events are related to levels of personal adjustment. Typically, these studies have found that daily hassles, relative to major life stress, are more predictive of adjustment difficulties. For example, Wolf, Elston,& Kissling (1989) found that hassles were significantly correlated with psychological well being and in fact were more strongly associated with mood than were major life events in freshman medical students. Similarly, Burks, Martin, & Martin (1985) study reported that daily hassles were a greater risk factor than life events as regards the emergence, in first year university students, of psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety and OCD.  And lastly, Kohn, O’Brien-Wood, & Pickering (1997) found that hassles correlated moderately high with perceived stress, psychiatric symptomatology, and minor physical ailments, whereas major life events made no significant independent contribution to the above three variables. In fact, Eckenrode (1984) has suggested that much of the impact of major life events is mediated through hassles.  This can be exemplified by the following illustration:

Imagine yourself on a brief vacation with a friend in Barcelona and you get your purses snatched while strolling on the Ramblas. This could clearly lead to cash-flow difficulties. Your need to recover money, travelers’ cheques, airline ticketing and passport pdq– time-pressure. You and your friend are both understandably upset and disagree about how best to proceed– hence conflict between you. You contact family at home and also disagree with them– more conflict. You find your trip insurance has loopholes rendering it useless in your situation—rip off. Officials you communicate with seem not to appreciate the urgency of your situation. Hence, you have a negative major life event, criminal victimization, leading to a bunch of hassles. Now, suppose you had cash-flow problems, time pressure, conflicts with friends and family, recent rip offs in services purchased and inconsiderate treatment from officialdom, would this necessarily lead to criminal victimization, e.g. a purse snatching?

The above is an illustration of how a major life event (criminal victimization) can lead to an array of hassles (cash flow, time pressures, conflict with friends and family, rip offs in services, and inconsiderate treatment from officialdom).  Accordingly, it is over these hassles that cause individuals the most stress; moreover, it is these hassles that individuals have the most control over. Individuals higher in adaptiveness organize their lives as such that they experience fewer hassles and retrospectively downplay their exposure; making adaptiveness again a desirable quality to have.

Very little has been published examining the predictors of military adjustment. Not much is known as to what variables best predict military adjustment. As mentioned above the military is a distinct environment, with different policies, guidelines and rules compared to undergraduate universities. The transition to military is more challenging and demanding. Therefore, this study aims to identify the key predictor to military adjustment and potentially offer remedial training and support towards poorly adjusted officer cadets at the RMC.

1)Adaptiveness decreases and major life events increase reported hassles.
2)Adaptiveness improves personal, social and work adjustment, whereas life events impair personal adjustment .
3)Hassles reduce personal and work adjustment.

Method Section:
1. Participants:
a) Number of Participants:  200 officer cadets from the Royal Military College.
b) Recruitment: i) A bilingual invitation email will be sent to all officer cadets (first-years to senior) to complete a voluntary and anonymous online survey developed by Survey Monkey. ii)  Bilingual posters including a link to survey and a QR code will be displayed around the RMC campus. iii) Officer cadets’ that did not go away for summer military training will be recruited to participate in the survey using the pen and paper version.
c) Incentives:  Five $50 gift cards to Tim Horton’s. A self-generated alphanumeric code will be used to link respondents’ data for a chance to win one of five $50 gift cards from Tim Horton’s. The self-generated alphanumeric code will include: first letter of your favourite colour; first letter of your month of birth; first digit of the day of the month you were born in; the initials of your most admired historical figure; and first letter of the place you spent your last vacation.
d) Consent Procedure: i) Online- participants will read an informed consent form online in which the benefits and risks of participating in the study will be explained. Instructions on the consent form will read: My clicking the radio button for “Accept” indicates my consent. On the other hand, my clicking the radio button for “Don’t Accept” indicates my refusal to participate. ii) Pen and paper- participants will be required to read the consent form and sign.
e) Debriefing Procedure: i) Online- upon immediate completion of the survey, participants will be debriefed online. They will be referred to a military counseling and mental health center in case they experienced any kind of distress while participating in the study. ii) Pen and paper- participates will be debriefed in written form.

2. Measurements:
a) Demographic Information: Gender, Age, Year of Study, Faculty Major (Arts, Science or          Engineering) and Plan ( Regular Officer Training Plan, Reserve Entry Training Plan, University Training Plan Non Commissioned Members)
b) Questionnaire will contain the following measures: The Personal Functioning Inventory (PFI; Kohn, O’Brien, Wood, Pickering & DeCicco, 2003); a modified version of the Inventory of College Students’ Recent Life Experiences (ICSRLE; Kohn, Lafreniere & Guravich, 1990); the List of Threatening Experiences (LTE; Brugha, Bebbington, Tennant & Hurry, 1985); a modified version of the Soldier Adaptation to Army Questionnaire (SAAQ; Ben Knaz, Wintre & Sugar, 1997; Wintre & Ben Knaz, 2000)
The Personal Functioning Inventory (PFI).
The Personal Functioning Inventory (PFI) developed by Kohn, O’Brien-Wood, Pickering and Decicco (2003) is a validated and reliable measure of adaptive coping.  Adaptiveness constitutes coping consistently so as to reduce stress, or, at worst, not aggravate it. Adaptivness requires a combination of  judgement to distinguish controllable from uncontrollable situations; determination to take appropriate action, given controllable situations; and self control not to act counterproductively in controllable situations, even despite impulse to do so (Kohn & Veres).  The PFI consists of 30 statements to which participants respond according to a 5-point Likert scale, running from “1-Strongly Disagree” through “3 = Unsure” to “5=Strongly Agree”.  The PFI showed adequate reliability and correlated significantly with Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (SF-MCSDS),  and Summed Self-Rating for Adaptiveness (SRSA),   p<.01, respectively.  The PFI was validated by correlating with the Problem-Solving Confidence subscale of the Problem Solving Inventory (PSC), and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), p < .01, respectively.  The PFI showed satisfactory test-restest reliability over a three week interval, p < .01. Finally, the PFI proved to be superior from its predecessor, the Situational Response Inventory (SRI) in both internal consistency and degree of relationships to self-rated adaptiveness , p< .01.
A Modified Version of The Inventory of College Students Recent Life Experiences (ICSRLE).
The Inventory of College Students’ Recent Life Experiences (ICSRLE) developed  by Kohn, Lafreniere, & Gurevich, 1990) measures college students exposure to hassles. The ICSRLE showed to be highly correlated with Cohen, Kamarack, and Mermestein’s (1983) Percieved Stress Scale (PSS), a reliable, valid and widely used measure of subjectively experienced stress, p < .0005).   The ICSRLE was modified for military application by Kohn (2012) and…name…  Inventory of Cadets’ Recent Life Experiences (ICRLE).The ICRLE consists of 54 items, some of which apply specifically to officer cadets (e.g., finding military training too demanding), and others of which apply more generally (e.g., not enough leisure time). Items cover such areas as military training, academic demands, romantic relationships, times pressures, alienation and social mistreatment. The response format involves subjects’ rating the extent of their experience with each item over the past month on the following 4-point scale: 1 = not at all part of my life; 2 =only slightly part of my life; 3 = distinctly part of my life; and 4 = very much part of my life.
The List of Threatening Experiences (LTE) 
The List of Threatening Experiences (LTE) developed by Brugha & Cragg (1990) is a reliable and valid measurement of major life events. The LTE has shown to have high test-retest reliability and good agreement with informant information Using the Bedford College Life Events and Difficulties Scales (LEDS) method developed by Brown and Harris (1978), concurrent validity, based on the criterion of independently rated adversity derived from a semistructured life events interview, showed both high specificity an sensitivity . The LTE consists of 12 categories of common life events that are highly likely to be threatening, such as bereavement or being fired from a job.  Participants select “Yes” or “No” in response to each statement, for example, have you had a serious illness or injury within the past 6 months?  Yes or No.
Cadets’ Adjustment to Royal Military College Questionnaire (CARMCQ)
The CARMCQ is a modified and somewhat longer version of the Soldier Adaptation to Army Questionnaire (SAAQ)(Ben-Knaz, Wintre, & Sugar, 1997). The SAAQ is a modified version of the Student Adaption to College Questionnaire (SACQ) (Baker & Siryk, 1989). The transition to military, and the transition to university includes similar experiences such as,  separation from family, new responsibilities, and typically occurs at the same age;  thus as per Wintre & Ben-Knaz , “there was no reason to assume some similarities with regard to issues involved in the two transitions”. The CARMCQ measures four subscales:  connectedness to the military in general; personal-emotional adaptation; social comfort and personal distress involving peers, superiors, and social comparisons; and motivation and performance such as commitment to personal goals, motivation to excel in the army, and personal performance. The questionnaire consists of 68 items. The items are scored on a 9-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1= applies closely to me to 9 = does not apply to me at all.

3. Procedure:
Complete CIMVHR from to gain access to do study at RMC. The ethics review board of York University and the Royal Military College approved the research protocol. A survey via survey monkey invitation from an inside professor will be sent out to all officer cadets. Depending on the response rate, the invitation might have to send out a second time.  Posters will posted around campus with qr codes. The survey and posters will be available until sufficient number of respondents have been collected. Before the posters an approval by the RMC administration has to be granted.

4. Data Analysis:
Structural Equation Modeling techniques will be employed to investigate the complex relationships among observed and latent variables. The relationships describe the magnitude of the effect, (direct or indirect) that independent variables, (observed or latent) have on dependent variables, (observed or latent). Furthermore, SEM will statistically test a hypothesized model to determine the consistency of that model with the sample data. Path analysis, a subset of SEM, will be employed to test the following assumptions:
1) Adaptive coping reduces and life events increase hassles.
2) Adaptive coping improves personal-emotional, social and work adjustment
3) Hassles impair personal-emotional and work adjustment
4) The errors for personal-emotional, social and work adjustment intercorrelate positively. (This means that either the same unmeasured predictors affect these variables or that the unmeasured predictors for these variables are intercorrelated.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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