This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Role of Hardiness in First Year AROTC and University Students: Examining Changes and Related Performance.




Merritt, Monaye

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




The Big Five has dominated personality-performance literature, but within the overarching Five Factor Theory characteristic adaptations can be more contextually specific and better predictors of performance. Hardiness, defined as a worldview, is one such characteristic that has shown utility predicting performance when measured in addition to and independent of the Big Five particularly within military personnel. Higher hardiness is linked to reducing ill-effects of ​stress, health maintenance, and better performance (Meredith et al., 2011), but, like the Big Five, has rarely been evaluated over time and unexamined in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). This study assessed changes in personality (hardiness and the Big Five) three times over one academic year and determined the impact on performance in first year Army ROTC (AROTC) cadets while using university students as a control group. Field performance was measured via the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). The ACFT is a series of six events reflecting the physical stress of a combat environment. GPA was used to assess academic performance in both groups. Through a mixed methods design, survey data was collected in August, January, and April to examine the relationship amongst stress, personality, and performance. The Big Five via IPIP was assessed in January and April and hardiness was measured in August, January, and April. Qualitative data consisted of interviews (n = 6) and self-assessments (n = 29) collected during the spring semester. All time points were completed by 19 cadets and 14 university students. Changes in hardiness were analyzed through a repeated measures ANOVA. Hierarchal linear regression models evaluated the influence of demographics (biological sex, military dependent status, in/out–state resident status, and scholarship status), the Big Five, and hardiness on the ACFT and GPA. Qualitative data explored cadet’s conceptualization of stress, training, and performance.  No significant changes in hardiness occurred from August to April (F1,18 = .806, p = .381, η2 = .043). From January to April conscientiousness decreased from 50.51 to 40.90 while university students slightly increased from 51.42 to 52.00 revealing a group by time interaction for both (F1,46 = 11.166, p = .002), (F1,46 = 11.847, p = .001). AROTC increased in neuroticism from 28.36 to 30.78, while university students decreased from 33.28 to 25.00. Army ROTC induces significant personality change, which differs from university students, and may also differ from military academy cadets or enlisted soldiers. Two regression models predicting field performance in August were significant, R2 = .784, p < .001, and R2 = .791, p = .002. Biological sex was the only significant variable in models 1 and 2 (p < .001). None of the models predicting academic performance were significant for cadets (R2 = .338, p = .462) or university students (R2 = .972, p = .143).  Through qualitative data cadets described their year as a learning curve embodying a true first year experience with three emerging themes: Getting Here, I Know Nothing, and Being Better. Hardiness did not change, nor did it play a significant role in performance.  Through mixed methods, cadets shared latent qualities of hardiness development within the qualitative data undetected by survey. Our findings serve as a first step in understanding the process of personality change through military training. Future studies should continue to examine the development of hardiness and the efficiency of training from early training to soldier status.