Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Cognitive Hardiness in the New Zealand Military

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Cognitive Hardiness in the New Zealand Military

Article excerpt

The current research investigated appraisal, coping, cognitive hardiness and work related stress in 439 military personnel. Associations were found between challenge appraisals, adaptive coping and positive psychological and physical outcomes. Associations were also found between threat appraisals, maladaptive coping and negative psychological and physical outcomes. Cognitive hardiness was not found to be associated with building adaptive coping strategies and did not mediate the positive pathway to stress. However, cognitive hardiness did mediate the negative pathway suggesting a potential protective element to this construct.


The motto used by the New Zealand Army Physical Training Corps is "mens sana in corpore sand' meaning "a sound mind in a sound body" and encompasses both physical and mental health. The present research explored stress, cognitive hardiness and coping within a military setting in order that insights into these issues can allow improvements in the programmes that contribute to maintaining a robust defence force. Military populations also provide a unique cross-section of society where valuable insights into occupational stress and resilience can be found.

Lazarus and Folkman (1984, p. 19) defined psychological stress as a "particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being". The range of outcomes associated with or caused by stress is extensive. Consequences can include negative effects on general psychological health (Karademas & Kalantzi-Azizi, 2004). anger (Bongard & al Absi, 2005), psychological distress (Marchand, Demers, & Durand, 2005), burnout (Collins & Long, 2003), susceptibility to respiratory infections (Cohen, Tyrell, & Smith, 1993), heart disease (Rosengren et al., 2004) and cancer (Dettenborn et al., 2005). These affect the individual and may also impact directly or indirectly on organisational well-being (Jex & Crossley, 2005).

Cognitive hardiness

Reactions to stressful demands are influenced by situational and individual factors. Cognitive hardiness is a personality construct comprised of the characteristics of commitment, control, and challenge (Kobasa, 1979), often referred to as the 3Cs of hardiness (Maddi, 2002). People high in commitment are typically involved in their work, family and interests: people high in challenge tend to view life changes as opportunities to learn; and people high in control typically believe they have influence over events in life (Nowack, 1990). Together the components of hardiness combine to represent the day-to-day attitudes and beliefs that are held by an individual (Beasley, Thompson, & Davidson, 2003). There is increasing evidence that cognitive hardiness is a negative predictor of psychological distress and self-reported illness, and a positive predictor of well-being (Beasley et al., 2003; Kobasa, 1979; Kobasa, Maddi, & Kahn, 1982; Nowack, 1990). Hardiness has been related to higher levels of performance, cohesion and engagement in military personnel (Bartone, 2000; Bartone, Johensen, Eid. Brun, & Laberg, 2002; Britt, Alder, & Bartone, 2001) and athletes (Golby & Sheard, 2004).

The NZ Army prides itself on providing a challenging and stimulating environment for personnel. Army personnel also pride themselves on, accepting both physical and mental challenges. The ethos and values of the NZ Army are: courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity (Chief of Army, 2006). These values have striking similarities with the three Cs of cognitive hardiness. Maddi (2002 p. 176) believes that "hardiness develops in people who are encouraged by those around them that they can turn adversity into opportunity and who observe themselves actually making this happen". It is likely that the NZ Army both attracts and develops cognitive hardiness in its personnel. …

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