A social constructionist perspective on combat veterans' post-war adjustment

by Aloi, Janice A., D.M.H., DREW UNIVERSITY, 2010, 196 pages; 3407079


The effect of societal acknowledgment on combat veterans' post-deployment readjustment to civilian life was examined. Social constructionist theory, due to its emphasis on meaning-making, served as the theoretical framework. This dissertation rested on the premise that feedback from the society-at-large is a key factor in the combat veteran's ability to readjust Readjustment was determined by the ability to construct positive meaning and find benefit from the war experience. Considering the length of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, along with the repeated deployments, veterans face numerous and complex challenges when their military service ends. Insight into the role of societal acknowledgment can serve as a basis for strategies to help ease the homecoming process.

Utilizing an Interpretative Phenomenological approach, ten combat veterans were interviewed to obtain their personal account of post-deployment readjustment. Semi-structured, open-ended questions served to elicit the participant's; (1) life at the time of draft or enlistment, (2) lived experience of homecoming, and, (3) personal meaning and ability to find benefit in the combat experience. Profiles of the participants are included. Analysis of the interview data revealed successful readjustment to post-deployment by all ten participants. This was determined by (1) making sense of the combat experience, and (2) finding benefit in the experience. Nine themes, common to all participants, emerged. These included: fear, lack of understanding, exhilaration, recognition, substance use, mood disturbances/loss, identity transition, purpose, and personal growth. The study did not provide evidence that societal acknowledgment exerted an effect on readjustment, however, it did confirm that peer relationships played an important role in the readjustment process. A congruency model, identifying combat veterans as a unique subculture, was designed to explain the role of veteran peers in the readjustment process. The model adds support for social constructionist theory as a basis for meaning-making and benefit-finding by combat veterans upon homecoming, suggesting that a social constructionist perspective on readjustment has implications for the vast number of veterans who will be returning home from Iraq, Afghanistan, and future wars.

AdviserMargaret Micchelli
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsSocial research; Social psychology; Military studies
Publication Number3407079

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