The Relationship Between Psychosocial Resources, Stress, and Task C ompletion in Elite Military Training

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Gruber, Kerry Ann
Iso-Ahola, Seppo
ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PSYCHOSOCIAL RESOURCES, STRESS, AND TASK COMPLETION IN ELITE MILITARY TRAINING Kerry A. Gruber, Doctor of Philosophy, 2004 Dissertation directed by: Professor Seppo Iso-Ahola Department of Kinesiology The purpose of this study was to test the ability of three psychosocial factors (social support, mattering, and self-efficacy) to protect soldiers from stress (expected and cognitive), injury, illness, and assist them in graduating from a physically challenging military program. Three hundred and eighty voluntary male Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) soldiers served as the subjects. Questionnaires were given to measure soldiers' psychosocial resources, expected stress, cognitive stress, and injuries/illnesses they may have acquired throughout the SFAS training. The outcome measures were injury and illness (physical outcome) and the soldiers' graduation, voluntary withdrawal, medical withdrawal, or "other" outcome (program outcome) from the SFAS program. It was hypothesized that soldiers with high psychosocial resources were less likely to become injured or ill than soldiers with low psychosocial resources, and therefore be more likely to graduate from the SFAS program and less likely to withdraw (voluntarily or medically) than soldiers with low psychosocial resources. It was also hypothesized that soldiers with high psychosocial resources would perceive the SFAS training to be less stressful and have a lower expected stress and cognitive stress response than soldiers with low psychosocial resources. Expected stress was hypothesized to predict the soldiers' cognitive stress experienced during the SFAS program. Linear and multinomial regression analyses were employed to test these hypotheses. Physical fitness level and social desirability were controlled throughout the analyses. Consistent with the research hypothesis, psychosocial resources were significantly related to the program completion. Expected stress also significantly predicted the level of cognitive stress soldiers experienced during training. Contrary to the research hypotheses, there was no significant relationship between psychosocial resources and expected stress or cognitive stress. The hypothesis related to psychosocial resources and physical outcome was not supported, but the indirect relationship between psychosocial resources, expected stress, cognitive stress, and physical outcome was partially confirmed. No significant relationship was found between expected stress and physical outcome or program outcome. In conclusion, psychosocial resources seem to increase the soldiers' likelihood of graduating from the SFAS program, but do not protect them from injuries/illnesses.