Date of Conferral

Spring 5-2014






Dr. Brent Robbins


The purpose of this study was to explore and examine coping with combat stress exposure in a homogeneous group of 132 U.S. Marines who served in Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom, and who self-reported that they were coping positively. A mixed methods concurrent triangulation strategy was employed with positive psychology as the quantitative theoretical base and Husserlian transcendental phenomenology as the qualitative conceptual framework. Quantitatively, hardiness, hope, social support, personality, and coping strategies were assessed in the participants to examine how these variables may moderate or mediate the relationship between combat stress exposure and subjective well-being. Five hypotheses were tested using the one sample t test, Pearson correlation, and multiple regression analysis for moderation and mediation interaction. It was found that Marines with higher subjective well-being were generally hardy, hopeful, less neurotic, more extraverted, used adaptive coping strategies, and coped best with good social support. Thirteen volunteers from the larger sample were interviewed yielding qualitative data concerning how and why they coped positively. Seven themes emerged using an inductive and descriptive coding method. The themes were: (a) emotionality, (b) moral dilemma/injury, (c) self-awareness, (d) training, (e) job, (f) shared experience, and (g) social support. The negative effects of war can be economically, physically, and psychologically devastating to individuals, families, institutions, and society. Learning more about coping positively with combat stress exposure can enable the U.S. military to foster positive social change by mitigating the negative effects of stress, reducing medical treatment costs, strengthening warriors to be fit to fight, and ensuring that military service personnel return to society as better citizens