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Military-to-civilian transition strains and risky behavior among post-9/11 veterans

APA Citation:

Markowitz, F. E., Kintzle, S., & Castro, C. A. (2023). Military-to-civilian transition strains and risky behavior among post-9/11 veterans. Military Psychology, 35(1), 38-49. https://doi.org/10.1080/08995605.2022.2065177

Abstract Created by REACH:

The military transition theory underscores that transitions are inherently stressful. More specifically, strains experienced during the military-to-civilian transition can lead to negative emotions, which may then be expressed through risky behaviors. This study examined the relationship between postdischarge strains (unmet needs and loss of military identity), negative emotions (depressive symptoms and civilian resentment), and risky behaviors within a sample of post-9/11 Veterans in the Chicago and San Francisco areas (N = 783). Overall, this theoretically informed model represented the experiences of the Veterans in the sample, such that more strains were related to more negative emotions, and more negative emotions were related to engagement in risky behaviors (e.g., reckless driving, taking unnecessary risks, substance use, gambling, unsafe sex).


Substance use
Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Cross-Sectional Study


Markowitz, Fred E., Kintzle, Sara, Castro, Carl A.


Many military veterans face significant challenges in civilian reintegration that can lead to troublesome behavior. Drawing on military transition theory (MTT) and using data from a survey of post-9/11 veterans in two metropolitan areas (n = 783), we investigate previously unexamined relationships between post-discharge strains, resentment, depression, and risky behavior, taking into account a set of control variables, including combat exposure. Results indicated that unmet needs at time of discharge and perceived loss of military identity are associated with increased risky behavior. Much of the effects of unmet discharge needs and loss of military identity are mediated by depression and resentment toward civilians. The results of the study are consistent with insights from MTT, providing evidence of specific ways in which transitions can affect behavioral outcomes. Moreover, the findings highlight the importance of helping veterans meet their post-discharge needs and adapt to changing identity, in order to reduce the risk of emotional and behavioral problems.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Sociology, Northern Illinois University, FEM
School of Social Work, University of Southern California, SK
School of Social Work, University of Southern California, CAC


depression, mental health, risk-taking, strain, veteran reintegration

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  June 2023

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