Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Higher-Order Model of Resilience in the Canadian Forces

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Higher-Order Model of Resilience in the Canadian Forces

Article excerpt

Psychological resilience is an important construct for those who work in high-stress, potentially traumatic occupations. Using data collected as part of the Canadian Forces (CF) Recruit Health Questionnaire (RHQ), structural equation modelling analyses were performed to test the fit of a model of resilience comprised of several intrapersonal resilience factors (i.e., Big Five personality traits, dispositional affect, dispositional optimism, hardiness, mastery, self-esteem) and one interpersonal resilience factor (i.e., social support). An initial model showed that all lower-order intrapersonal variables loaded significantly onto a higher-order intrapersonal resilience latent factor, and that this factor was significantly correlated with social support. However, the strong intercorrelations between a few of the intrapersonal variables pointed to some redundancy. Based on empirical data and on a conceptual analysis, an alternative, more parsimonious model of resilience was developed. This model consisted of the Big Five personality traits, positive affect, and mastery as lower-order factors of dispositional resilience, which was hypothesised to be correlated with social support. This analysis is an important first step to developing an approach to conceptualise and measure resilience. One benefit of being able to assess resilience is that doing so can inform the development of programs to enhance mental health, readiness and recovery. However, more research is needed to understand the processes through which these psychological factors influence occupational as well as health outcomes before relevant policies may be developed.

Keywords: psychological resilience, hardiness, mastery, military psychology

Stress is inherent to the military context, and stress injuries account for a relatively large proportion of casualties on operations (e.g., Adler, Dolan, Bienvenu, & Castro, 2000; Thompson & McCreary, 2006). However, not aU individuals exposed to stressors develop symptoms, nor do symptoms develop to the same degree when they do occur (e.g., Rundell & Ursano, 1996). Indeed, it has been suggested that certain personaUty factors or individual differences may mitigate the negative impacts of stressors, such as those experienced in war or other military contexts, on psychological health and well-being (e.g., Bartone, 1999). This salutogenic perspective focuses on the resilience of individuals to the potentially negative impact of stressful experiences, rather than on the negative outcomes of such stressors. In Ught of its relevance to mitigating the psychological impacts of combat stress, it is not surprising that interest in the notion of psychological resilience has recently grown in the military context (Maddi, 2007). However, research in this area is wrought with conceptual and methodological issues, which limit the extent to which policies and programs may be reasonably developed to promote resilience among military personnel. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to achieve a better understanding of resUience and develop an approach to measure this complex concept.

Definitions of Resilience

Despite widespread interest in the concept of resilience, there is still no universally accepted definition of psychological resihence (WaId, Taylor, Asmundson, Jang, & Stapleton, 2006). One common conceptualisation is of resilience as a personality trait or as a set of individual-level variables that protect well-being under stressful circumstances (e.g., Connor & Davidson, 2003; Makikangas & Kinnunen, 2003; Yi, Vitaliano, Smith, Yi, & Weinger, 2008). Research examining resilience from this perspective can be beneficial, as results can inform the development of behavioural or psychological interventions to improve well-being and functioning in the face of adversity. Developing practical, theory- and empirically based approaches to assess these psychological processes or characteristics is important in this regard. …

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