The full extent of employee expectations
in an employment relationship is often fraught
with situationally dependent ambiguity and unspoken
gender-specific expectations. Since the 1960’s,
several theorists have sought to explain employee
behavior in context of the perceived exchange
relationship between employer and employee.
While a substantial body of research explores
the construction and consequences of the psychological
contract in the civilian context, little research
has been conducted to explore the effects of
the psychological contract in the military environment;
especially as it relates to the development
of post-traumatic stress disorder. This paper
examines the influence of schemas, mental models,
and psychological contracts resulting from past
experiences in the deployment outcome of three
female soldiers. The paper makes recommendations
for future research and proposes as methodology
for exploring the influence of psychological
contracts in resilience, self-remediation, and
deployment outcome of other female soldiers.
Schemas, Mental Models, and Psychological
Contracts in Female Soldiers in Iraq
Ending her shift on a mountaintop
near midnight in northern Iraq, Sergeant Kayla
Williams (2005) doesn’t feel tired. So,
she decides to visit her friend, Matt, in the
COLT Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Operations
Center where he works. The center is typically
dark as she enters, so Williams moves closer
to see the person on watch to whom she would
be speaking. Usually two or more operators are
on duty at all times. This time, however, only
one person is present, and it is not Matt. Noting
how odd this is, she questions the person on
watch regarding Matt’s whereabouts. He
responds that he had not awakened Matt for his
shift. Feeling awkward, Williams engages in
small talk as she prepares to leave. As her
eyes become accustomed to the dim lighting,
Williams is surprised to see the male soldier’s
pants are open and he is apparently in the process
of masturbating. As Williams turns to leave,
she feels a hand on her wrist. The soldier begins
to pull her hand towards his penis. Williams
pulls hard to release his grip while uttering
that she is not interested, but the soldier
is far stronger than she is. She begins consciously
reviewing her courses of action. A thought goes
through her mind that she never previously thought
possible; she had been provided a weapon to
protect herself from the enemy, but now she
might have to use it against one of her own
to protect herself. She could also awaken Matt
and others by screaming, but then she would
appear weak and unable to handle situation herself.
Suddenly, she reflects back to being sexually
assaulted at the age of 13. She begins to think
how much more intelligent, stronger, and able
to resist now than she was then. As she continues
to physically resist, Williams (2005) argues,
“Think of your girlfriend … Shouldn’t
you be thinking of her.” However, he argues
in return, “No one has to know.”
As Williams resists with all her might, the
soldier inexplicably releases his grip. Williams
quickly retreats to her vehicle and leaves.
The remainder of that night,
Williams anguishes in her bunk over what to
do. In her mind, female soldiers are viewed
as either sluts or bitches by their male counterparts,
referring to those who voluntarily engage in
sex with the male soldiers and those who do
not. If she reports the incident for formal
investigation, she knows she will be viewed
as a traitor to those with whom she works and
upon whom she depends for survival. If she doesn’t
report the incident, the perpetrator will be
free to commit similar acts on other females
who are not as old and not as experienced she
was. As morning dawns, Williams speaks about
the incident with her Staff Sergeant. Fearing
the repercussions of a formal investigation,
Williams agrees to an administrative handling
of the incident. A few days later, the perpetrator
is transferred. Unfortunately, the traumatic
repercussions do not end with his transfer.
Nearly a month later, Williams
is on watch as another male soldier begins speaking
with her about the incident. However, in his
version, Williams was not the victim, but instead
she was the instigator. The soldier suggests
all of the other soldiers with whom she worked
believe the story as related by the perpetrator
is true. Williams’ life began to spiral
out of control. Wrought with anxiety, depression,
and a feeling of betrayal, Williams survives
day-by-day, and moment-by-moment. She withdraws
socially from the others in her unit except
Matt. He is the only other person she feels
as though she can rely upon for support. However,
Matt too begins to be psychologically affected
by all of the experiences around him. Many of
the other men in her unit begin to make rape
jokes when Williams is present. In retrospect,
Williams (2005, p. 214) thought to herself,
“[T]he guys I considered my friends were
treating me like a girl. I was a piece of ass,
a bitch or a slut or whatever, but never really
a person.” Depressed and despondent, Williams
even contemplates suicide to end the pain. The
weight she was barely able to maintain on her
petite frame begins to melt away. Despite the
weight loss, however, she does not feel hungry.
Fortunately, her unit is relocated to a larger
area soon afterwards, and she is able to reunite
with her friend Zoe. This move, arguably, saves
Williams’ life. On February 8, 2004, Williams
returns safely home from Iraq, but the term,
safely, is relative.
Far too often, the phrase, “returned safely
home,” refers to safety in a physical
context. However, safety should reflect the
holistic biological, psychological, and sociological
(biopsychosocial) wellbeing, especially when
that wellbeing is disrupted by feelings of betrayal
and perceived violations of one’s psychological
contract in a stressful life-threatening environment.
It is argued that it is in such situations mutuality
matters most. For Williams’s, any perception
of mutuality was lost in this environment. Increased
research of predeployment psychological contracts,
schemas, and mental models of both genders needs
to be conducted to better care for the holistic
wellbeing of deployed forces.
Post-deployment research and
empirical data largely reflects the narrow position
that post-deployment post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) in combat is exclusively the result of
traumatic experiences and operational stress
resulting from actions of the adversary. However,
additional research should be performed regarding
PTSD resulting from own-force violations of
psychological contracts and betrayal trauma,
especially among female service members.
This article will discuss the
foundations of the schemas, mental models, and
psychological contracts and will explore violations
of psychological contracts of through the lenses
of three female soldiers deployed to similar
Recent studies (Heck, Schweitzer
& Seidel-Wiesel, 2004; Hall & Salmon,
2002; Hattie, Myers & Sweeney, 2004; Nabkasorn,
Miyai, Sootmongkol, Junprasert, Yamamoto &
Miyashita, 2006) provide empirical evidence
of the systematic relationship between a person’s
biological, psychological, and sociological
(biopsychosocial) self and his or her holistic
wellbeing. Additionally, research (Tansey, Mizelle,
Ferrin, Tschopp, Frain, 2004) supports the relationship
between the biopsychosocial system and a person’s
perception, cognition, and behavior. Harkening
back to Darwinian Theory members of all species
are innately predisposed towards behavior that
ensures survival of self. Assuming an evolutionist
lens, then, the human mind is innately predisposed
to formulate propositions that would enable
survival of self.
People are also seen as being resilient and
innately predisposed to develop adaptive solutions
to overcome traumatic or stressful experiences.
However, the biological and psychological resources
necessary for resilience are not infinite. Thus,
biopsychosocial resources must be identified,
prioritized, and optimized, which often results
in stress as the person struggles with benefits
and consequences of his or her choices and the
limitations of resources. Stress disrupts to
the body’s normal equilibrium. Within
the context of the present discussion, research
(Tansey, Mizelle, Ferrin, Tschopp, Frain, 2004)
finds not all stress is undesirable. For example,
the biopsychosocial benefit of short-term stress
is seen to enable task accomplishment. However,
long-term stress potentially causes lasting
detrimental biopsychosocial consequences. A
substantial body of empirical data (Freeman,
2002; Padgett & Glaser, 2003; Kunz-Ebrecht,
Kirschbaum & Steptoe, 2004) supports the
harmful biopsychosocial effects of prolonged
long-term stress. Empirical data finds overproduction
of cortisol, triggered by stress response, can
lead to sub-clinical inflammation, adrenal burnout,
memory loss, and premature aging. It is suggested,
then, as a strategy for self-survival, a person
will subconsciously adjust the component parts
of his or her biopsychosocial self in a life-sustaining
effort to find an equilibrium to reduce harmful
long-term stress. The following section will
correlate this assertion to the major theories
of human development.
Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow (1968) postulates a
pyramid of six deficiency needs followed
by two growth needs. In progression
to the pinnacle of self-transcendence
(spiritual needs), an individual must achieve
and maintain satisfaction of each of the underlying
six deficiency needs – physiological,
safety, belongingness, esteem, cognitive, and
aesthetic – and the growth need of
self-actualization (in Pervin, Cervone,
& John, 2005). Satisfaction of these levels
is not, however, static. Rather, satisfaction
is dynamic and relative to the perceived relationship
of the individual to his or her current environment.
In other words, attainment of a level of needs
is not inextricably assured; changes in an individual’s
life or environmental circumstances may cause
stagnation or regression, resulting in the need
to reacquire any of the six phases. In fact,
a person might ascend and descend the hierarchy
of needs several times in his or her lifetime.
This foundational thought is crucial to understanding
deployment to a combat environment. As the traumatic
stress intensifies, the level at which a person
operates regresses until it reaches a previously
acquired level of perceived safety. While Wahba
and Bridwell (1976) found little evidence to
support Maslow’s assertions for the existence
or ranking of needs, other researchers (Nohria,
Lawrence, & Wilson, 2001) find the hierarchical
theory pivital to understanding human development.
Piaget (1983; Beilin, 1992)
conceptualizes a person’s understanding
of reality in relationship to specific chronological
stages in his of her life. Specifically, Piaget
postulates during the first two years of life,
the person is engaged in the sensorimotor
stage. During the sensorimotor stage, the infant
experiences sub-stages: development of reflexes
(birth to 6 weeks), development of habits (6
weeks - 4 months), coordination between vision
and prehension (i.e., taking control, grasping,
or seizing) (four - nine months), development
of logic and the coordination between means
and ends (9 – 12 months), discovery of
new means to meet goals (12 – 18 months),
and the beginnings of insight, or true creativity
(18 months – 2 years).
Following the sesorimotor stage,
the child enters into the preoperational
stage (2 – 7 years), in which he
or she learns symbolic functioning, centration,
intuitive thought, egocentrism, categorization
or serialization, classification, and the inablility
to conserve. From seven to eleven years of age
a person undergoes the concrete operational
stage in which he or she learns the use of logic.
During the concrete operational stage,
the person learns to view reality from another
person’s perspective. From 11 years of
age through adulthood, the person experiences
the formal operational stage in which he or
she develops his or her ability to think abstractly
and make conclusions from the available information.
Piaget himself, however, found assignment of
stages to age to be relative and subject to
Erikson (1950, 1964, 1968,
1974), alternatively, postulates human development
in eight distinct stages which might be succinctly
conceptualized as the oral-sensory, muscular-anal,
locomotor, latency, adolescence, young adulthood,
middle adulthood, and maturity stages,
in which one learns hope, will, purpose,
competence, fidelity, love, caring, and
wisdom respectively. Interestingly, Erikson
postulates the outcome of each discrete stage
is based on outcome of internal conflict. Thus,
the Erikson Theory relates favorably to the
development of personality traits and locus
of control based on life experiences. During
the oral-sensory stage (birth-1 year of age)
a person learns trust versus mistrust. During
the muscular-anal stage (1-3 years), a person
learns autonomy versus self-doubt.
In the locomotor stage (3-6 years), a person
learns independence and initiative
versus inadequacy. During the latency
stage (6-12 years), a person learns industry
versus inferiority. During adolescence
(12-18 years), a person learns identity versus
confusion and learns the importance
of peer relationships. In young adulthood (18-40),
people grow through love relationships learning
intimacy versus isolation.
Unfortunately, this is also the chronological
timeframe in which many service members currently
experience the trauma and stress associated
with combat. The relationships he or she experiences
are pivotal to life-long perception, thoughts,
feelings, emotions, and behavior in social and
intimate relationships. During middle adulthood
(40-65 years), a person struggles with generativity
versus stagnation. Finally, from 65
years until his or her death (maturity) a person
struggles with integrity versus despair;
reflecting on earlier experiences and behavior.
While the included theories
are fundamental to the understanding of basic
psychology and human development, each of the
theories has acquired both proponents and opponents.
Largely, opponents argue human development cannot
be conceptualized into contrite age-related
categories. Taken as a whole, however, the theories
provide important points of intersection, such
as the relevance of both nature and nurture,
the foundational importance of family relationships
in early development, the diminishing importance
of family and increasing significance of peer
relationships in developmental evolution, the
progression from family to peer relationships
in the development of trust, and the perceived
importance of the psychological contract in
human development. As envisioned by Maslow,
ascendancy of the pyramid of human needs is
not inextricably assured; rather a person might
ascend and descend the pyramid several times
during his or her lifetime. Additionally, PTSD
researchers and clinicians (van der Kolk, McFarlane,
& Weisaeth, 1996; Scaer, 2005) argue traumatic
experience and prolonged stress might result
in developmental stagnation or regression toward
an earlier attained stage of relative safety.
In conceptualization then, trauma is reflective
of a person’s individualized beliefs and
perception of reality, or psychological contract,
with important others. Given that people are
innately driven to survival, he or she develops
coping strategies, or schemas, to ensure survival.
Unfortunately, because of limited competence,
learning, or experience, however, some schemas
might later prove to be maladaptive and, as
such, require subsequent modification.
Some theorists (in Pinker,
2002) suggest the human mind is born as a blank
slate, devoid of any preconceived abstractions
of reality or strategies for survival. Other
theorists (in Pinker, 2002) suggest people are
born with an embryonic conceptualization of
his or her environment and primitive strategies
for survival derived from biology or perhaps
evolution. Regardless, as a person evolves from
his or her natal state, he or she develops preconceived
models and strategies for interacting with his
or her environment.
Researchers and clinicians
(Public Health Service, n.d.) have repeatedly
found response to new experiences, rather than
resulting from a myriad of disparate biologically-,
psychologically-, and sociologically-grounded
responses, is instead a systematic biopsychosocial
response derived from a highly complex, individually
derived algorithm of the myriad of factors,
such as self-esteem and optimism, reflecting
the person’s perception of self in relationship
to his or her environment and his or her ability
to influence that relationship. The ability
to influence his or her situation might be based
upon analysis, experiences, beliefs, or faith.
Recently, a large-scale cross-sectional survey
(Curlin, Sellergren, Lantos, & Chin, 2007)
of 2,000 practitioners, for example, reaffirmed
the asserted importance of religiosity and spirituality
in patient’s holistic biopsychosocial
wellbeing. Seventy-six percent of the respondents
indicated that he or she believed a patient’s
religiosity or spirituality helped him or her
cope with often life-threatening illness and,
in some cases, influence the physical outcome.
Unfortunately, reanalysis of
all of the diverse factors required to analyze,
understand, and respond each time new experiences
are encountered would be, at best, time-consuming.
Additionally, finite perceptual, cognitive,
and responsive capacities argue for the need
for preconceived or pre-established analytical
models and strategies to reduce systematic demands
each time a similar experience is encountered.
Consequently, theorists (Young, 1990, 1999;
Young, Klosko, & Weishaar, 2003) postulate
people rely upon a system of mental models and
associated schemas to view, analyze, and respond
to his or her environment.
Schemas then are the underlying
connections by which new experiences and information
are contrasted with a person’s prior knowledge
to create a new understanding of reality (McCarthy,
1991; McCarthy & Carter, 1994). Without
proper schemas, a person cannot extract meaning
from new experiences. Initially rudimentary,
embryonic schemas in infants accommodate the
first of Maslow’s levels of needs –
physiological needs. However, as the infant
evolves and begins to acquire new data from
experience, the schematic architecture increases
in both height and breadth to enable a person
to function with a greater degree of automaticity.
Generalizability is found in
the vertical dimension, in which a person increases
his or her global perspective based upon the
perceived relationship between new experiences.
However, as new information is obtained through
education and experience relevant to specific
experiences, the schematic architecture increases
in breadth. In either case, creation of new
schemas is not static. While durable and relatively
resilient once formed (Young, 1991, 1994), schemas
are subject to modification, or even deletion
based upon new information and need.
Rather than entering the schematic
architecture at a specifically applicable schema,
new information is seen to enter the architecture
in a top-down approach; descending from the
global level until level suitable schema for
contrast and response is found. Note, schemas
employed in exigent or stressful circumstances
are not necessarily the best schema for the
task, but rather the first suitable schema that
will potentially result in favorable outcome
(Young, 1991, 1994). Based upon outcome of the
selected schema(s), the schematic architecture
might then undergo the processes of accretation,
tuning, or restructuring. Accretation
occurs when new information is assimilated without
altering the overall schematic architecture.
Schemas inadequate to suitably accommodate the
new information are modified in a process of
tuning. Restructuring occurs when schemas are
found to be wholly unsuitable or major inconsistencies
exist between existing schemas and the new information.
The mental model is
a learned process composed of schemata derived
from biopsychosocial and environmental stimuli
that traverse well beyond schema theory to include
perceptions of task demands and task performances.
Right or wrong, once recalled, the mental model
helps to identify which information is most
important for the task, what can be ignored
or discarded, and how to interpret that information.
Most importantly, theorists and researchers
(Young, 1990, 1999; Young, Klosko, & Weishaar,
2003) argue a mental model does not need to
be in the conscious mind to influence subsequent
cognition and behavior. In some instances, recall
may be subconscious and applied to a situation
without conscious awareness of it.
Generally, a contract is a
legally enforceable promise-based mutual exchange
between two or more parties (Cornell Law School,
n.d.). Over the past two decades, however, researchers
(Robinson & Rousseau, 1994; Robinson &
Morrison, 1995, 2000; Herriott, Manning, &
Kidd, 1997; Rousseau & Tijoriwala, 1999;
Rousseau, 2001) have studied the effects of
the psychological contract on worker perception,
cognition, and behavior. Originally conceptualized
in 1960 (Argyris, 1960), researchers such as
Rousseau (1989, 1995, 1996a, 1996b, 2001; Robinson,
Kratz, & Rousseau, 1992) suggest a psychological
contract is comprised of subjective beliefs
a person holds regarding the exchange agreement
between himself or herself and the organization
(Rousseau, 1989). Realizing that all aspects
could not possibly be accounted for in the formal
expressed contract, the psychological contract
is, then, a subjective conceptualization of
the unexpressed obligations of the organization
and what he or she owes in return. Because psychological
contracts involve subjective employee beliefs
of the reciprocal obligations between themselves
and their employers, Rousseau (1995) suggests
they can be viewed as foundational to the functionality
of the exchange relationship. Rousseau and other
researchers have then explored the effect violation
of a psychological contract has on employee
wellbeing (Robinson, Kratz, & Rousseau,
1994). Understanding how military indoctrination
and post-enlistment socialization shape formulation
and maintenance of the psychological contracts
of military members, especially as related to
gender, age, and sociocultural affiliation,
is relatively embryonic. However, it is suggested
greater understanding can be achieved by analyzing
contemporary research of schemas, promises,
and perceptual accuracy in interpersonal interactions.
Thomas and Anderson (1998),
for example, studied the concept of psychological
contracts among British Army recruits. One of
the few studies of the effect of psychological
contract in the military context, Thomas and
Anderson (1998) found recruits formed increased
expectations of job security, social and leisure
time, effect on the family and accommodation
within eight weeks of entry into the military;
the converse of similar studies of employees
in a civilian environment. However, with longevity,
the recruits aligned more closely with reality.
Potentially Influencing Psychological Contracts
Perceived roles are pivotal
to how people view other people (Kidder &
Parks, 2001). Roles also create expectations
of expected behaviors, especially with regards
to gender roles. However, multiple roles often
result in dissonance in self-assessment and
assessment of others. In the present discussion,
roles of interest include gender roles
versus professional roles; specifically the
convergence and divergence of the two roles
in female versus male soldiers deployed in Iraq.
Gender roles reflect sociocultural
expectations of appropriate gender-related behavior.
As a general rule, people are expected to behave
in accordance with societal expectations (Brehm,
Kassin, & Fein, 2005). Deviation might be
expected to result in negative outcome (Kidder
& Parks, 2001). Gender roles might also
be greatly influenced by perception by the person
of in-group or out-group affiliation, affected
by, or resulting from, perceived psychological
contract breaches or violations.
While gender and professional
roles often provide divergent expectations,
they might also provide points of intersection
where gender roles overflow into unspecified
breadth of the psychological contract of both
the employer and employee regarding the scope
of professional duties. Socially correct or
not, sterotyping continues to pervade the professional
environment (Kidder & Parks, 2001). Males
and females continue to predominantly categorize
professions according to gender roles (Kidder
& Parks; Bielby & Baron, 1986). When
an occupation, such as the military, continues
to be predominantly occupied by one gender or
the other, gender becomes relevant; resulting
in stereotypical representation and polarization.
Empirical data (Kidder & Parks, 2001) suggests
people conceptualize general beliefs of themselves,
often referred to as self-schemas (Markus, 1977).
These abstractions then influence his or her
perception of others and relevance to his or
her environment. Individuals with greater gender-related
self-schema are predisposed to negatively view
gender-inconcruent behavior. This assertion
is grounded in the social learning theory,
which argues incursion by the non-traditional
gender disrupts the status quo. Thus,
because of the threat to uniquely male identity,
male soldiers are likely to be biased against
female soldiers in the traditionally male combat
environment (Williams & Relly, 1998). This
phenomenon is not, however, uniquely male. Studies
(in Kidder & Parks, 2005) have noted negative
perceptions by both male and female persons
towards females endeavoring to perform traditionally
Empirical data (Seymour &
Buscherhof, 1991; Kidder & Parks, 2001)
also finds females are perceived as possessing
greater altruism than males. This assertion
is supported by a wide body of research (Anderson,
1993; Belansky & Bogianno, 1994; Eagly &
Wood, 1991). Thus, combat-related duties would
appear counterintuitive. Whereas females are
stereotypically associated with nurturing and
helping behaviors, males are associated with
behaviors associated with professions of greater
physicality and risk. Kidder and Parks (2001)
also suggest, whereas females demonstrate greater
externalization and are not adverse to requesting
assistance from males and perhaps, to a lesser
extent, other females, males are conditioned
to internalize concerns and emotions and oppose
requesting assistance from females. This conditioning
might prove problematic in an exigent or operationally
stressful combat environment.
Perhaps the perceived empirical
ambiguity and disparity results from the contrite
biological definition of gender, rather than
a more holistic biopsychosocial model of gender
definition suggested by Gilbert (1992). Thus,
rather than a question of whether biological
gender, in itself, influences psychological
contract, then, perhaps the salient questions
might be, (a) To what degree does the sociocultural
society in which the person was raised value
relationships?, and; (b) What are the socioculturally
assigned roles of males and females? Chubb,
Fertman, and Ross (1997) questioned the influence
on adolescent females' sense of self or feelings
of a society that values empowerment of society
values autonomy and separation versus one that
values relationships. The researchers found
the two important psychological constructs that
influence many aspects of the adolescent's life,
including perception, cognition, and behavior,
are self-esteem and locus of control.
Harter (1990, p. 225) suggests
self-esteem reflects the degree to which a person
“likes, accepts, and respects himself
[or herself] as a person.” Rosenberg (1985)
offers that a person with low self-esteem tend
to experience lower life satisfaction and greater
external locus of control, anxiety, resentment,
irritability, loneliness and depression. Conversely,
high self-esteem is associated with increased
internal locus of control, professional success,
and higher income (Griffore, Kallen, Popovich,
& Powell, 1990). Thus, the person with low
self-esteem would perceive greater control by
others and less power and authority from himself
or herself. Conversely, a person with high self-esteem
would perceive greater control, power, and authority
in relationship to his or her environment.
One of the most widely researched
variables in recent cognitive and behavioral
research has been locus of control -- the generalized
internal and external expectancy of reinforcement
(Strickland, 1989). Internal locus of control
refers to the expectation that reinforcement
is the result of one's own effort, ability,
characteristics, or behavior. Alternatively,
external locus of control is the expectation
that reinforcement results from chance, fate,
luck, serendipity or other persons.
While some studies (Cairns,
McWhirter, Duffy & Barry, 1990) suggest
females have greater external locus of control
than males, other studies (Adame, Johnson &
Cole, 1989; Dellas & Jernigan, 1987) have
not noted significant differences. A study by
Chubb, Fertman, and Ross (1997), which sought
to explore gender differences in these constructs
during high school, for example, did not find
a significant difference in locus of control
between males and females. These findings support
the findings of other researchers (Adame et
al., 1989; Archer & Waterman, 1988; Dellas
& Jernigan, 1987). Thus, additional research
In a study by Pilisuk, Montgomery,
Parks, and Acredolo (1993), the researchers
found a supportive network and a sense of control
tends to build confidence in one's capacity
to cope both with external stressors and with
illness. The relationship was found to be stronger
in males than females. Thus, empirical data
regarding the influence of gender on empowerment
and locus of control, from which psychological
contracts are constructed, is indeterminate.
of psychological contracts
Similar to other forms of schemas,
a psychological contract is relatively sacrosanct
once established (Rousseau, 2001). As such,
it is considered both stable and durable. Psychological
contract violation occurs when an employee perceives
that the organization has failed to fulfill
one or more of subjective obligations included
in the psychological contract (Rousseau &
Parks, 1993). Within the military context, violation
of the psychological or social contract results
in distrust in leadership and the absence of
a feeling of group belonging, which are, in
turn, associated with psychological distress
in combat environments (Steiner & Neuman,
1978). Intrinsic to the violation of a psychological
contract in the military context is the perception
of locus of control and, therefore,
perceived influence, power, and authority
the organization and its leadership holds over
the individual. Within the military context,
these terms are often used without explicit
specificity of meaning. For the purposes of
this article, power is defined as the potential
influence the military and the individual’s
chain of command have over a military member’s
attitudes and behavior, and the influence the
military member has on the attitudes and behavior
Researchers exploring psychological
contracts focus greatly on the influence of
past perceptions (Robinson & Morrison, 2000)
in formulation of psychological contracts and
expectations for future experiences. The following
cases will examine this assertion in relationship
to the outcomes of three female soldiers deployed
to similar environments.
Born in 1976 to an authoritarian
mother from an affluent family lineage and an
often angry father who she suggests resented
her birth, Kayla Williams (2005) asserts the
only person she could rely upon during her adolescence
was herself. Only one-year of age, Kayla’s
parents separated and eventually divorced. During
early childhood, Kayla’s mother ensured
she attended the finest schools. However, by
age nine, financial setbacks began to drastically
alter her circumstances. Three years later,
feeling like an outcast in public school because
of her advanced education, Kayla began wearing
combat boots and associating with “high
school punks and dropouts.” Williams (2005)
suggests association with this group gave her
an identity. At 13, Kayla ran away from home,
finding herself on the streets with a 15-year-old
paranoid runaway with a Mohawk.
Finally landing in a house with neo-Nazi’s,
she was found to have a picture of a Black friend.
With fear of bodily harm (Williams, 2005), Kayla
returned to her mother’s house. A short
time later, however, Kayla’s mother forced
her to leave after finding evidence she was
using drugs. Kayla returned to Kentucky to live
with her father. Afraid he too would make her
leave, Kayla began to conform to rules, graduated
high school, and enrolled in college. Overwhelmed,
however, Kayla dropped out of college in her
Working as a secretary, Kayla
began feeling rejected by her heroin-using friends.
Kayla relates in her book (Williams, 2005) about
sexism, discrimination, and domestic violence
even among her punk friends. However, she did
not succumb to peer pressure. Rather, Kayla
relied upon self-sufficiency, internal locus
of control, and high conscientiousness personality
facets. Determined to rise above adversity,
Kayla enrolled Bowling Green State University
at age 20, from which she graduated cum
laude. At 22, the self-reliant Kayla was
employed by a public television cooperative
and owned her own house. Feeling the need for
personal growth, however, Kayla joined the Army
Because of Kayla’s demonstrated
aptitude for foreign languages, she was sent
to the Defense Language Institute in 2000 for
an intense indoctrination in the Arabic language,
graduating in February 2002. In February 2003,
Kayla’s unit was deployed to Iraq as a
forward-deployed signals intelligence (SIGINT)
specialist. Throughout her book (Williams, 2005),
Kayla describes the trauma and stress associated
with deployment in remote Iraq. She describes
in graphic detail the cognitive dissonance associated
with balancing the need to perform military
duties and the difficulties associated with
being a female in a male-dominant environment
under the extremes of risk, operational stress,
and tedium -- an environment in which females
are often viewed as a highly desirable commodity
in an environment of male machismo. Williams
(2005) embodies the female desire to assimilate
into the group seen as fundamental to personal
survival. She elucidates well an environment
in which male and female hormones surge under
operational stress in a constrained environment.
Kayla also conceptualizes the psychological
contract under which male and female soldiers
operate in country – very different
from the preconceived psychological contract.
Williams’ (2005) book also well elucidates
the evolution of her psychological contract
throughout her deployment. In the final chapter
of her book, Williams (2005, p.279) recalled,
“In Iraq, I figured out there was no option
for me to do anything but push myself…and
keep pushing.” On February 8, 2004, Williams
returned from deployment, converting her journal
into an award-winning book about being a female
in Iraq, Love my rifle more than you (Williams,
On Sept. 15, 2003, Army Specialist
Alyssa Peterson, 27, an Arabic-speaking Human
Intelligence (HUMINT) Collector and devout Mormon,
committed suicide at Tal-Afar in northwest Iraq
near the Syrian border after objecting to interrogation
techniques used on prisoners and refusing to
go to work for 2 days. Coworkers offer that
she vehemently objected to the aggressive interrogation
practices used -- practices quite different
from those she had learned at Fort Huachuca.
After objecting to her supervisors,
Alyssa was assigned to supervise Iraqi guards.
However, there, too, Williams experienced cognitive
dissonance as she was repeatedly counseled not
to reveal that she spoke or even understood
Arabic. The altruistic Peterson became noticeably
silent and withdrawn; however, she was not placed
on suicide watch. During this period, Peterson’s
unit was required to attend mandatory combat
stress and suicide prevention training. In her
final note, Peterson suggested it was ironic
that the training she received for suicide prevention
would provide her with the information she needed
to take her own life.
Prior to entering the Army,
Peterson had earned a Bachelor of Science in
psychology and had attended the Flagstaff Institute
of Religion, a theological training institute
for Mormons. Her professors offer, while there,
Williams appeared to be a highly intelligent
person who frequently questioned life in relationship
to religion. In the 1998, after completing three
years of undergraduate course work, Peterson,
then 21, insisted on performing missionary work
for 18 months in the Netherlands. In the process,
Peterson mastered Dutch. Simultaneously, Peterson
cared for the grandparents of Sergeant First
Class Denis Colbert of Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Colbert offered that Peterson questioned him
at length about questions about the life in
the Army, and the duties of an Army linguist.
Alyssa returned to Flagstaff in 2000 to complete
her final year at Northern Arizona University.
In 2001, Colbert was surprised to see Peterson
sitting in one of his interrogator instruction
classes at Fort Huachuca. Following graduation,
Peterson volunteered to exchange assignments
a fellow soldier who did not want to go to Iraq.
On the Fallen Heroes
message board on the Internet, fellow service
members who knew Alyssa offer that she was “an
inspiration.” During the 16-month course
of instruction to learn Arabic, she persevered
through persevered through setbacks, discouragements,
and disappointments. Some suggest the most memorable
and inspirational component of Alyssa's character
was her faith in God.
Fellow soldiers acquainted
with Alyssa in Iraq (U.S. Army, 2003) suggest
she had a difficult time separating her personal
feelings and beliefs, from her professional
duties. It is clearly impossible at this point
to obtain a personality profile, such as the
NEO-PI-R. However, by the accounts of those
soldiers who knew Peterson, she would have been
expected to score highly on the Openness,
Agreeableness and Conscientiousness scales;
especially warmth, positive-emotions, aesthetics,
feelings, ideas, values, trust, altruism, modesty,
tender-mindedness, competence, order, dutifulness,
achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation,
by the accounts given by those who knew her.
Peterson’s experiences in Iraq would be
contrary to her established morals, ethics,
and values, which might be expected to result
in anxiety, stress, and depression. Ultimately,
cognitive dissonance proved greater that her
Specialist Lynndie England
served in the 372nd Military Police Company
and has become arguably the most infamous of
the Army reservists convicted of abusing prisoners
at Abu Ghraib. Her notoriety demonstrates well
the significance of gender role when women are
evaluated in a male-dominated environment or
vice-versa. England, born on November 8, 1982
in Ashland, Kentucky, was found guilty of inflicting
sexual, physical, and psychological abuse on
Iraqi prisoners of war and became the poster
child of the Abu Ghraib scandal by posing for
a photograph while holding a leash attached
to the neck of naked Iraqi. On September 26,
2005, England was convicted of one count of
conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees
and one count of committing an indecent act.
She was acquitted on a second count of conspiracy.
England was sentenced to three years for her
crimes and given a dishonorable discharge. She
is now serving at the Naval Consolidated Brig
Miramar in San Diego.
The daughter of a railroad
worker, Lynndie England grew up in a trailer
on a dirt road behind a saloon and near a sheep
farm in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, a small town
approximately 13 miles south of Cumberland.
In school, the diminutive England was known
for wearing camouflage fatigues and combat boots.
After graduating from Frankfort High School
in 2001, she worked as a cashier in an IGA grocery
store and later at a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken
processing factory. However, England quit Pilgrim’s
Pride in protest of ethics and code violations.
To broaden her horizons, England
joined the Army Reserves at age 17 in 2001.
In 2002, England married a fellow IGA coworker.
While at Fort Lee, England met fellow reservist
Specialist Charles Graner, 15 years her senior.
During her Court-Martial, the defense described
England as a quiet girl, not knowing anyone
at the Reserve Center before meeting Graner,
who was gregarious and assertive. The shy England
finally felt as though someone was paying attention
to her. Smitten, England divorced her first
husband and became engaged to Graner.
England’s mother offers
that her first impressions of Graner were filled
with concern regarding his arrogance and foul
attitude. She suggests her daughter was totally
dominated by him and she dutifully complied
with all of his commands regardless how perverted
of demeaning. She also offers that Graner was
obsessed with capturing each of these events
on film, which would lead to the downfall of
himself and others.
In June 2003, a group of about
20 soldiers, including England and Graner, were
sent to Iraq. During a period of intense insurgent
activity in October 2003, the unit was sent
to Abu Ghraib. During the day, snipers took
aim at the guards. At night, insurgents launched
mortar attacks. The guards, unable to communicate
with the prisoners, were confronted by defiant
acts and chanting. Not assigned to Tier 1A,
England’s defense counsel argued she would
frequently visit the area to visit Graner for
support, during which he would induce her to
participate in the acts photographed. During
the course of the deployment, England became
pregnant with Graner’s child. After the
news broke regarding the Abu Ghraib abuse, she
was returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
five months pregnant.
During England’s court
martial, the prosecution described Lynndie as
exhilarated with the abusive behavior. However,
a psychologist for the defense described her
as being overly compliant. The defense suggested
she was a fearful small-town girl who found
herself in a place surrounded by violence and
infatuated with a volatile, manipulative sociopath
who she relied on as her protector. England
repeatedly argued that she was instructed by
persons in higher ranks to commit the acts of
abuse for pschological reasons. The defense
offered during the court martial that England,
too, felt confused when the chain of command
approved the abusive actions.
Lynndie England embodies the
complexity and multiplicity of psychological
contracts. Exploited by Graner prior to deployment,
male dominance became the norm by which England
formed her psychological contract. In a threatening
male-dominant environment, surrounded by Arabic
males with whom she could not communicate, but
had been advised were the worst criminals in
Iraq, England embodies the very essence of the
study of gang psychology (Brehm, Kassin, &
Fein, 2005), in which members relinquish individual
schemas in favor of group schemas to increase
the probability of survival. In the biopsychosocial
context, adoption of group schema occurs with
a high degree of automaticity to reduce cognitive
dissonance and stress.
The psychological contract
appears to operate as a biopsychosocial
set point, in which a person operates on
a continuum from elation to depression dependent
upon how he or she sees, thinks, feels, and
reacts to his or her situation. The prevailing
assertion is that, over the long-term, individuals
tend to seek equilibrium -- a natural state
of wellbeing. However, short-term wellbeing
is largely the response to environmental influences.
In analysis of two large-scale studies, Lucas
(2007) found emotional equilibrium is greatly
affected by life’s stressful challenges.
Lucas (2007) suggests the degree to which people
return to equilibrium, and the time required
to return to equilibrium is greatly influenced
by the significant event itself. For example,
the average time required to return to relative
equilibrium because of a death of a loved one
is seven years. However, divorce and loss of
employment often leave a person permanently
scarred. It is suggested, the reason for the
disparity in extent and time is because of the
individual’s perceived external locus
of control over the outcome of the event, loss
of self-esteem (i.e., inability to meet and
maintain perceived expectations), and perception
of psychological betrayal (both of himself,
herself and others involved).
Lucas (2007) suggests the results
of two large-scale studies suggest, “Although
happiness levels are moderately stable over
time, this stability does not preclude large
and lasting changes.” Further, Lucas (2007)
suggests, “happiness levels do change,
adaptation is not inevitable, and life events
do matter.” A person confronted by violations
of his or her psychological contract either
reframes his or her perceptions, adjusts his
or her expectations, changes his or her schemas
and mental model, or remains inextricably mired
in misery (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 2006;
Young, 1990, 1999). The influence of psychological
contract violation is evident in the cases of
Kayla Williams, Alyssa Peterson, and Lynndie
should be developed to assess how psychological
contract influences adaptation to an exigent
male-oriented environment to develop a clear
gender-specific picture of the psychological
contracts and the violations to which people
can and cannot adapt. Lucas (2007) suggests
adaptation might be physiological and psychological.
Physiological adaptation might be to reduce
the psycho-emotional response to the offending
stimulus or stimuli. Psychological response
might be to reframe the perspective of events
that have one’s life. It is suggested,
however, that adaptation might be physiological,
psychological, or sociological or a combination
of all three realms; this redefining the nature
of one’s relationship to others as a means
of adaptation. Future research should then strive
for greater understanding of the processes that
underlie hedonic adaptation of the psychological
contract as a venue to more adaptive coping
Finally, researchers and clinicians
(Young, 1990, 1999; Scaer, 2005) have found
that, consistent with the perception of reality,
coping strategies are individual specific and
rely greatly upon the individually assigned
support system. To the extent of a person’s
perception of locus of control, he or she relies
upon the support and assistance of others. The
empirical data resulting for the previous recommendations
should lead to a Department of Defense (DOD)-sponsored
effort to proactively amplify adaptive thoughts,
feelings, and behavior and attenuate factors
found to be foundational to maladaptive psychological
contracts, thereby fostering adaptive coping
Psychological contracts are
conceptualized to be beliefs people hold regarding
the terms and conditions of the exchange agreement
between himself or herself and the organization
(Rousseau, 1989, 1995; Millward & Brewerton,
2000; Shore & Tetrick, 1994). Thus, the
psychological contract is a highly individualized
perception of the verbal promises made between
a person and the organization for which he or
she is accountable. Robinson and Morrison (2000)
conceptualize a five-question instrument to
operationalize psychological contract breach.
Representative statements of potential concern
are: “Almost all of the promises by my
employer during recruitment have been kept so
far”, “So far, my employer has done
an excellent job of fulfilling its promises
made to me”, “I feel betrayed by
my organization”, “I feel that my
organization has violated the contract between
us”, and “I feel extremely frustrated
by how I have been treated by my organization.”
The participant responds using a seven-point
Likert-like scale from “Strongly agree”
to “Strongly disagree.”
As a point of entry, researchers
(Rousseau, 1989, 1995; DeVos, Buyens, &
Schalk, 2003) argue the psychological contract
provides a point of debarkation for people to
actively interpret new experiences, form expectations,
and make predictions or prognostications. Alterations
in the psychological contract at specific points
along the continuum from entry to a point six-months
to a year from entry (Rousseau, 1989, 1995).
Rousseau (1989, 1995) suggests this initial
period of organizational entry and socialization
is characterized by sense-making, in which the
person comes to interpret, understand, and respond
to his or her new employment environment. DeVos
et al. (2003) suggests the sense-making process
is critical to the development of attitudes
and behaviors (Bauer, Morrison, & Callister,
1998; Morrison, 1993a, 1993b; Saks & Ashforth,
2000). The importance of sense-making is directly
correlated to the degree of uncertainty. During
the socialization period, knowledge gained from
experience results in contract and expectation
revisions (Rousseau, 1989, 1995, 2001; Shore
& Tetrick, 1994).
DeVos et al. (2005) suggests
the divergence of experiences versus expectations
might even reach a level of reality shock;
during which, strategic coping strategies assume
greater importance to accommodate the cognitive
dissonance associated with the divergence between
perceived promises, expectations, and interpretation
of new experiences. The outcome of the sense-making
period, then, helps a person align his or her
expectations in line with reality, which, in
turn, potentially reduces feelings of broken
promises and unmet expectations. The process
of psychological contract revision is, then,
analogous to the schematic processes of accretation,
tuning, and restructuring.
Thomas and Anderson (1998)
found British recruits increased expectations
of job security, social and leisure time, effect
on the family and accommodation within eight
weeks of entry into the military. Rousseau (1995,
2001) and DeVos et al. (2005) argue the person
undergoes a process of schematic revision six
months to a year from the point of entry. Therefore,
the points of survey should be: (a) immediately
prior to deployment; (b) eight to twelve weeks
following deployment commencement, and; (c)
upon return from deployment, which should optimally
be 12 months after commencement of deployment.
In a longitudinal study investigating
the development of psychological contract breach
and violation, Robinson and Morrison (2000)
put forth 11 hypotheses. Of these, five were
supported and are considered salient to understanding
psychological contract breach and violation
in the military context, including: (a) Perceived
contract breach will be more likely to the extent
the organization’s performance has declined
or fallen short of the person’s expectations;
(b) Perceived contract breach will be less likely
to the extent the employee experienced a formalized
socialization process; (c) Perceived contract
breach will be less likely to the extent the
employee interacted with representatives of
the organization prior to being hired; (d) Perceived
contract breach will be more likely to the extent
that the employee has a history of perceived
contract breach in past relationships, and;
(e) Perceived contract breach will be more likely
to the extent that the employee had employment
alternatives at the time of hire.
Variables of interest would
include gender, age, and number of previous
deployments, personality traits, prior trauma,
guilt, and locus of control. Additional research
might include PTSD assessment to correlate psychological
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