AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
One of the concerns raised when the U.S. was considering ending peacetime conscription and adopting an all-volunteer military force in the early 1970s was the degree to which such a force would draw its personnel disproportionately from disadvantaged social strata.(1) Subsequently, one of the criteria by which the all-volunteer military force has been evaluated is its social diversity.(2)
Bachman, Blair, and Segal have argued for the importance of value diversity, as well as sociodemographic diversity, in determining the degree to which military forces are reflective of their host societies.(3) Their analysis showed that military personnel who are not career-oriented are very similar in many of their attitudes and values to their civilian counterparts. Career-oriented military personnel, by contrast, differ markedly from civilians and from noncareer personnel on issues such as the importance of military supremacy, willingness to use force as an instrument of international relations, and the influence of the military in American policy.
To the extent that values reflect parental socialization, recruitment of military personnel from across the broad spectrum of society should produce uniformed forces that reflect the diversity of values in society. However, Bachman, Sigelman, and Diamond, in their analysis of the orientations of high school seniors who expected to serve in the military, found that their common orientations were products of self-selection, rather than parental socialization.(4) And since these young men and women had not yet served in the military, their value commonalities could not be attributed to organizational socialization within the armed forces.
Their findings are complemented by the research of Stevens, Rosa, and Gardner, whose study of Coast Guard Academy cadets showed considerable evidence of self-selection in cadet values.(5) The academy then reinforces (rather than inculcates) those values that are compatible with the institution.
Our analysis similarly carries the issue beyond the senior year of high school, and focuses on values held by members of the West Point class of 1992 at the beginning of their plebe (freshman) year, prior to extensive exposure to organizational socialization (although not prior to anticipatory socialization or to organizational selection processes). While West Point graduates comprise a minority of army officers, they have historically been overrepresented at the most senior ranks.(6) Thus our study can be seen as an exploration of the value bases of our future army elite.
Recruitment to West Point is not structured to represent proportionately all elements of American society. It is structured to reflect the social diversity of American society. It is broadly representative geographically, with a plurality of cadets being nominated by members of the House of Representatives or the Senate from their home states and districts. The Corps of Cadets overrepresents students from military families, relative to most educational institutions, and underrepresents women, who now comprise about 12 percent of the student body. In addition to being extremely selective academically, West Point selects students on the basis of physical ability, reflected most dramatically in the athletic participation of cadets, and of leadership, reflected in a high proportion of high school student government officers, student publication editors, and the like in the entering class. However, it also reflects great diversity in ethnic, racial, and religious origins. Following Bachman et al. beyond the question of sociodemographic diversity, we were also interested in examining value diversity among new cadets. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis, rooted in the early work of Kohn, that cadets' values are reflective of parental social class (SES) origins.(7)
An alternate hypothesis is based on the premises that individuals aspiring to employment in different occupations tend to differ in values and attitudes,(8) and that the military profession is characterized by rigidity and conformity.(9) Not only might young men and women attracted to the military be conformist as a consequence of occupational choice, but, to the extent that conformity and rigidity characterize military personnel, parents in the military might transmit this value to their children. A variant of this parental socialization model looked specifically at the effects of coming from a military family. …