Title page for ETD etd-05152007-144204

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Moorcroft, Harold Sean
Email smoor@lantic.net
URN etd-05152007-144204
Document Title The relationship between experiences in the South African special forces and current levels of well-being and sense of coherence
Degree MA (Clinical Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Prof J B Schoeman
  • sense of coherence
  • well-being
  • salutogenesis
  • positive psychology
  • orientation to life questionnaire
  • satisfaction with life scale
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • war
  • combat stress reaction
Date 2006-05-03
Availability unrestricted
War inevitably impacts on the lives of soldiers who participate in them. The impact often suggests a negative nature, leaving some soldiers with permanent physical and emotional scars. Some soldiers will return from war suffering from several psychological disorders as the result of their exposure to combat trauma. Pathologies such as post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety and mood disorders are not uncommon. Yet, for others war has provided them with numerous positive experiences from which they can find meaning for themselves. It was Aaron Antonovsky who developed the idea of salutogenesis, mainly focussing on the psychological factors that allow individuals to find meaning in their adversity. This study attempts to investigate the impact of service rendered in the South African Special Forces during the Angolan war on current levels of well-being and sense of coherence amongst former Special Forces members. It is commonly known that these soldiers were exposed to severe battle related conditions, often working behind enemy lines for unknown periods of time whilst being self-reliant. It would seem that most of these soldiers have adapted adequately to society 15 years after their participation in the Angolan war (South Africa’s “Border War”). Some of these soldiers have achieved success in many different ways after leaving Special Forces. Some have embarked into the world of business and others chose professional careers and then there are those who became successful entrepreneurs.

A sample of 32 respondents was collected. All of the respondents were members of the South African Special Forces during the Angolan war but have resigned since. The respondents were requested to complete a questionnaire consisting of a biographical information section, Antonovsky’s 13-item Orientation to Life Questionnaire (OLQ) and Diener’s Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS). The purpose was to determine the respondents’ current sense of coherence and level of well-being and to determine to what extent service in Special Forces has contributed to these levels.

Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse the data. Inferential statistics included Chi-square, Fisher’s exact test, Spearman correlation coefficient and the t-test. Analysis of data suggests that the sample currently measures high on both levels of sense of coherence and well-being. The means of both OLQ and SWLS of this sample compare higher to any other samples they were administered to.

However, statistically no clear correlation could be determined between service rendered in Special Forces and current levels of well-being. Respondents did however indicate that they feel that their service in Special Forces did have a positive impact on their lives and their current levels of functioning.

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