Transitioning From the Military Into Civilian


Transitioning from the military into civilian life is commonly associated with painful experiences and dramatic outcomes. Many former service members admit having issues with becoming accustomed to a peaceful lifestyle. Some of them feel unneeded, whereas others feel underappreciated or misunderstood. Military and civilian agencies collaborate to meet transitioning service members’ priority needs (Neill-Harris et al., 2015). Additionally, mobile applications are created to pursue similar goals (Fraynt et al., 2018). However, these measures are not sufficient since, as research indicates, many service members cannot cope with transitioning by themselves or are too embarrassed or afraid to address someone for help. To understand the needs and self-identification problems of transitioning service members better, researchers investigate the issues from the psychological and social points of view. A case study by Grimell (2017) offers data on analyzing the dialogical self in transition. The paper presents the analysis of the case study aimed at singling out the strengths of research indicating reliability and validity of findings.

Case Study Overview

Research by Grimell (2017) is classified as a case study since it focuses on the analysis of a specific issue within the boundaries of a particular environment. Namely, a service member’s self is analyzed, which presents a specific issue due to the complications faced by military personnel upon ceasing their work. The environment is also concrete, it being the civilian atmosphere. For military people, the adaptation to civilian life is a rather complicated process, which can be accompanied by numerous problems. Apart from serious physical health issues, these individuals frequently face psychiatric health challenges (Ahern et al., 2015; Ainspan et al., 2018; Grimell, 2017; Suzuki & Kawakami, 2016). Therefore, the analysis of the selected problem within the identified environment is classified as a case study.

The study under consideration is an exploratory one since it aims at answering the questions ‘who’ and ‘what.’ Namely, the author strives to find out the complexity of the ‘selves’ perceived by the interviewee and to identify the extent to which a dominant I-position can affect the transition process. Apart from that, exploratory case studies are characterized by the utilization of additional data collection methods, which is traced in the given article. Grimell (2017) utilizes interviews to gather data for the longitudinal analysis. Therefore, the article under analysis is an exploratory case study due to specific features pertaining to such a type of research.

Components of Research Design

The Research Question

The research question addressed by the author is related to the longitudinal character of the case study investigated. Grimell (2017) has formulated the question in the following way, “What happens to the former service member’s self and his narrative identities in the process of transitioning from the military into the civilian population?” The article focuses on the case of Sergeant Erik (the name is fictional) who served for about five years in Afghanistan and other spots. Erik’s case is analyzed from the point of identity struggles typical for former military men. The question is highly relevant since the majority of service members face existential crises during the transition.

In view of the selected research question, several sub questions have been singled out by the researcher. First of all, Grimell (2017) aims at tracing and analyzing the experiences of service people while transitioning into civilian life. This aspect is of utmost importance for researchers in different fields since former service people meet numerous obstacles in the process of changing their usual routine to the one they have already forgotten. By collecting service members’ narrative experience and analyzing it, scholars will be able to generate sufficient information to help these individuals make the process of transition smooth and less painful.

Secondly, the author addresses the subquestion of the ways of constructing narrative identities in the process of transition. Finally, the adaptation of the self during the transitioning process is investigated. Narrative identities compose a crucial part of the investigated case study since they help to create an understanding of service members’ fears and apprehensions related to their past and present. The adaptation processes of the self are also necessary to analyze since without performing such an analysis, researchers will not be able to make valid conclusions and come up with viable solutions to the issue.


It has been proposed that the interviewee’s I-positions are connected with both the internal and external domains of the self. Internal I-positions are the ones located inside, whereas external ones are related to the external domain of one’s self. Despite the differences in their nature, both I-position types have been proposed to have an impact on the self’s development. Such aspects as unity and continuity have been proposed to have an effect on composing the self (Grimell, 2017). Another proposition has been that different I-positions result in different narratives. This one has also been justified since Grimell (2017) has singled out several I-positions based on interviews with Erik: “I as a service member,” “I as a student,” “I as a brother,” “I as a friend,” and “I as a boyfriend” (p. 261).

The Unit of Analysis

The unit of analysis in Grimell’s (2017) study is Erik, a former service member who served for nearly five years in the Swedish army deployed in various locations, including Afghanistan. However, since Erik is presented as a “general trend of identity struggles” among military staff, it is possible to assume that the unit of analysis is presented by former service members who face difficulties when transitioning to civilian life (Grimell, 2017, p. 255). The unit of the study was selected by means of snowball sampling. Sergeant Erik received a letter of information explaining the conditions of the study. The letter contained the main background details of research, as well as the number of interviews to expect. Furthermore, the letter guaranteed anonymity and outlined ethical considerations (Grimell, 2017). By completing a response letter and returning it, Erik signed an informed consent form. He was also the one to choose the date and location of the first interview.

The Link between Data and Propositions

The data collected are directly related to the propositions set by the author. The main focus of the propositions was on identifying typical issues associated with identity struggles encountered by former service members. The interviews conducted by the author were aimed at finding out about Erik’s perceptions during the process of transitioning from the military into civilian life. Three interviews, each lasting between 100 and 120 minutes, were held annually in November (2013-2015) (Grimell, 2017). During these meetings, the researcher collected information about Erik’s struggles with himself. The tactic utilized by the researcher was prompting the interviewee to tell his own story. Meanwhile, the researcher guided the interview with questions and encouraging remarks so as to confirm or reject the propositions made at the beginning.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework for the study is a narrative approach with a dialogical theory. The dialogical self theory was proposed by Hermans and Hermans-Konopka (2010). This approach presupposes the inclusion of two significant elements in the analysis: the dialogue and the self. As a result, it becomes possible to understand the “interconnection” between the self and society (Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010, p. 1). It is commonly presumed that the self represents the inner part, something that is internal and takes place in an individual’s mind. Meanwhile, the concept of the dialogue is related to something external, such as processes between individuals that occur during communication (Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010). Furthermore, Kögler (2018) argues that the hermeneutic model of the dialogical theory offers an extensive view on formal and rational processes happening at the psychological level. Hence, the selected framework is a rather suitable solution to explain the problems with the service member’s self in the process of transitioning.

The core concept of the dialogical self theory is that the self is stretched in time and space. Related to space, the self is an element in the globalization process, which can increase the self to an unprecedented level (Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010). People no longer exist within the frame of stabilized traditions and limited cultures. Instead, a variety of cultures and values can meet in the life of one person (Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010). As a result, the self appears to be a complex entity consisting of numerous oppositions, encounters, contradictions, and integrations making up society as a whole and each individual separately.

In relation to the case study under analysis, the dialogical self theory is a useful tool to investigate the service member’s challenges and apprehensions driven by the need to combine the military and civilian lives. Individuals like Erik experience a cognitive dissonance since they are forced to combine two contrasting cultures: “the highly structured collective culture of military life and the individualistic culture of civilian life” (Suzuki & Kawakami, 2016, p. 2059). Based on research, scholars have concluded that former military people tend to continue serving others even when they find themselves in entirely different, peaceful, circumstances. Taking into account that Erik still performs some tasks for the armed forces, it is easy to trace such a trait in his personality (Grimell, 2017). During the transition, former service members not only face obstacles but are also frequently misunderstood by the civilians whose culture does not involve a dialogical self (Suzuki & Kawakami, 2016). Hence, the use of the dialogical theory as a framework for the selected case study is an appropriate decision.

In a more recent study by the scholar who originally came up with the theory, the complexity of the self is emphasized. Hermans (2015) notes that, viewed from different perspectives, the self is not only a social but also “societal, brain-based, and body-based construct” (p. 1). Hence, the dialogical theory serves as a bridging theory aimed at explaining this complexity of meanings. The narrative approach, which was utilized in Grimell’s (2017) article, is the most suitable method of obtaining personal information and inferences from an interviewee. Therefore, the selected framework has proved to be highly effective in finding answers to the research question and subquestions.

Reliability and Validity of the Study

The study’s validity and reliability are features signifying the level of its trustworthiness and usefulness for other scholars. Whereas it is much easier to identify the quality of research in quantitative studies, one can still make some conclusions about case studies in this respect. First of all, a thoroughly selected framework and its rationale signify the author’s dedication to the subject and object of investigation. By utilizing the most suitable approach, Grimell (2017) has made it obvious for the audience and fellow researchers alike that the problem of service members’ transition can be investigated longitudinally and from different perspectives. Secondly, the data collection method is highly reliable since a personal narrative presents a unique opportunity to receive information first-hand, without the risk of its being twisted or distorted.

Reliability is further proved by the fact that if research is repeated under the same conditions, the researcher will likely receive similar results. That is, if to inquire other former military staff members about their transitioning issues, the researcher will probably receive a list of the same self identity problems with some variations. Validity can be evaluated by the extent to which the results measure what they were initially expected to measure. In this case, the study is valid since the author aimed at investigating the changes in Erik’s self during the transition into civilian life.


The analysis of Grimell’s (2017) article allows positioning it as a case study and a valid and reliable investigation on a crucial social problem. Transitioning service members face many problems when returning to civilian life. By identifying the most crucial of the latter, researchers and social workers will be able to offer timely and effective help to former military staff members. The exploratory case study under analysis gives valuable insights into the matter of one’s self in transition, which makes it a useful resource both for current and future research endeavors.


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Ainspan, N. D., Penk, W., & Kearney, L. K. (2018). Psychosocial approaches to improving the military-to-civilian transition process. Psychological Services, 15(2), 129-134. Web.

Fraynt, R., Cooper, D., Edwards-Stewart, A., Hoyt, T., Micheel, L., Pruitt, L., Skopp, N., & Smolenski, D. (2018). An evaluation of mobile applications designed to assist service members and veterans transitioning to civilian life. Psychological Services, 15(2), 208-215. Web.

Grimell, J. (2017). A service member’s self in transition: A longitudinal case study analysis. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 30(3), 255-269. Web.

Hermans, H. J. M. (2015). Dialogical self in a complex world: The need for bridging theories. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 11(1), 1-4. Web.

Hermans, H., & Hermans-Konopka, A. (2010). Dialogical self theory: Positioning and counter-positioning in a globalizing society. Cambridge University Press.

Kögler, H. H. (2018). Empathy, dialogical self, and reflexive interpretation: The symbolic source of simulation. In H. H. Kögler & K. R. Stueber (Eds.), Empathy & agency: The problem of understanding in the human sciences (pp. 194-221). Routledge.

Neill-Harris, K. A., Resnick, S., Wilson-John, W. M., Miller-Stevens, K., Vandecar-Burdin, T., & Morris, J. C. (2015). Assessing partnerships between the military and civilian agencies to meet transitioning service members’ needs. Armed Forces & Society, 42(3), 585-604. Web.

Suzuki, M., & Kawakami, A. (2016). U.S. military service members’ reintegration, culture, and spiritual development. The Qualitative Report, 21(11), 2059-2075. Web.

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"Transitioning From the Military Into Civilian." PsychologyWriting, 11 July 2022,


PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Transitioning From the Military Into Civilian'. 11 July.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Transitioning From the Military Into Civilian." July 11, 2022.

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PsychologyWriting. "Transitioning From the Military Into Civilian." July 11, 2022.