School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Stacey Gaines


Veteran, military, culture, PTSD, Veterans Administration, civilian




United States military veterans face many challenges while transitioning from the military to civilian life that require a new civilian perspective to navigate the differences between these experiences. Previous research is focused on psychosocial, behavioral, and psychological issues veterans face (Ainspan et al., 2018; Coulthard & Lee, 2022; Romaniuk et al., 2020). The military and the Veterans Administration (VA) have primarily focused on veterans achieving employment and education after leaving the military. Being in the military is highly stressful and requires working closely with others (Krishnakumar et al., 2019), and reflects a collectivist nature (Bongioanni, 2022; Verkamp, 2021). Civilian culture is focus on the individual, this indicates an individualist culture (Bongioanni, 2022). Veterans have reported difficulty engaging with civilians due to the differences between both cultures (McCormick et al., 2019). To further explore the differences between military and civilian cultures, this study examined the effects of both cultures and the problems veterans experienced when separating from the military. This study was a phenomenological design that evaluated veterans’ experience with these cultural differences. There were 57 participants in this study who filled out a screening survey, a study survey and engaged in an interview. Four primary themes emerged from this study which include cultural differences, VA benefits, mental health problems and family connection. The challenges veterans face as civilians were rooted in their military experience and a lack of preparation for a change from the collectivist military culture to the civilian individualist culture. Implications for practice and direction for further research are also discussed.

Available for download on Saturday, April 06, 2024

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