Cadet basic training: an ethnographic study of stress and coping

Mil Med. 2000 Feb;165(2):147-52.


Cadet basic training (CBT) at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is an initial cadet experience designed to transition freshmen (new cadets) into the military. Challenge is an inherent component of CBT, and some challenging activities may be stressful. However, the nature and the impact of stress on health status have not been systematically investigated. An ethnographic technique, participant observation, was used to identify stressors and coping strategies among cadets aged 18 to 21 years participating in CBT. A company of 183 cadets, consisting of 123 new cadets and 60 supervising upperclass cadets from the U.S. Military Academy, was followed throughout the 6-week CBT in the summer of 1993. The investigator observed daily activities and participated in select field training experiences. Daily field observations were taped, and field notes were generated chronicling the experience. After CBT, 10 of the 60 upperclass cadets participated in a 20-minute structured interview. Field and interview notes were systematically reviewed to identify and categorize stressors and coping techniques. Stressors included anticipatory stress, time management pressures, sleep deprivation, performance evaluations, conflicts between teamwork and competitive grading, and inexperience in the leadership role. Coping techniques identified included perceiving social support, humor, and rationalization. Three new hypotheses were generated from the observations.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Military Medicine
  • Military Personnel / education*
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Observation
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Wit and Humor as Topic