First Advisor

Cynthia Mohr

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and University Honors






Veterans -- Mental health, Group identity, Combat -- Psychological aspects, Psychic trauma, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Belonging (Social psychology)




Significant evidence links combat exposure to psychiatric disorders and poor mental health outcomes in service members, creating the need to elucidate the factors associated with promoting psychological health and resilience in the military. Social identity theory postulates that an individual’s identification with a group, such as the military, can be instrumental in the provision of a sense of belongingness that is crucial for social integration, meaning and support during times of difficulty. This study examined how collective military identification interacted with the effects of combat exposure on mental health outcomes, in light of the protective capacity of social belongingness to support psychological health and resilience. I conducted a secondary analysis on a sample of 430 veterans and active duty reservists representing all branches of the military, who had deployed at least once. I hypothesized that collective military identity would provide a buffer against the deleterious effect of combat exposure on mental health, such that those with stronger levels of collective military identification would show a weaker relationship between combat exposure and poor mental health outcomes – assessed in terms of PTSD, psychological distress and perceived stress. My results indicated that collective military identity and combat exposure were both significantly and positively associated with PTSD symptoms; however, collective military identity did not buffer the effect. The findings present an unexpected, positive relationship between collective military identity and PTSD symptoms in veterans and reservists with the need for future research to further clarify this relationship.


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