Perceptions of Transition to Civilian Life Among Recently Retired Air Force Officers
Yanos, Ruth Calhoun
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This study explored the perceptions of recently retired Air Force officers and their wives of their adjustment to civilian life and their general well-being through in-depth personal interviews. The assumptions for this study were that military officers will require considerable time for the transition to retirement, personal identity will be disrupted due to the loss of the work role and general well-being will be negatively affected by the transition to retirement. The notion of "on-time" retirement in the United States is based on age related criteria, with most retirees being age sixty-five years. Most retirees do not seek full-time employment at retirement. Their transition to retirement is usually complete within a three year period. Military retirees represent a unique group of individuals whose retirement age may begin as early as forty-two years. These individuals must transition to a new work setting within a culture that is unfamiliar to them. A multidimensional model of adjustment to retirement was developed. The model considers retirement to be a precipitating event and addresses changes in the domains of Economic Impact, Social Support, Identity Reconstruction, and Physical and Mental Health. Identity Reconstruction and Mental Health represented the area of greatest challenge. A new positive self schema had to be developed by synthesizing the new civilian self with the military self. This was viewed through civilian employment, role in the civilian community and perceived civilian social status versus status as a military officer. Inconsistencies between the officer's perception of identity reconstruction and the spouse's perception of this reconstruction were evident. All three individuals experienced great difficulty in reconstructing an identity for the civilian sector. Mental Health considered psychological disorders and alcohol and tobacco consumption. The Bradburn Affect Balance Scale (Bradburn, 1969), a psychological measure of general well-being was used as a measure of mental health. This was correlated with the individual's perception of their happiness five years prior to retirement. This study, though limited in participants, was able to support the hypotheses for this research. The richness of the interviews provided an in-depth view of the transition to retirement for military officers.