Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology



First Advisor

Stefan E. Schulenberg

Second Advisor

Laura Dixon

Third Advisor

Stephanie Miller

Relational Format



Veterans’ transition from the military to civilian life can be conceptualized as a cultural transition (i.e., acculturation). This transition means leaving the familiarity and consistency of military life and attempting to integrate one’s values, skills, expectations, and identity as a service member into the dominant civilian culture. The present study seeks to examine the psychological adaptation component of acculturation (i.e., the individual’s feelings and perceptions of being in the new culture) in a veteran sample, as it relates to meaning in life. The existing body of veteran literature has demonstrated that meaning and purpose (a distinct component of meaning) are important protective factors for human flourishing and positive psychological functioning. However, research examining the role of meaning in veteran psychological adaptation specifically is lacking. The present study aimed to examine the relationship between meaning in life and veteran psychological adaptation to civilian life, as well as the role of psychological distress (i.e., symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress) in this relationship. A significant positive relationship was observed between meaning in life and psychological adaptation among veterans. Additionally, psychological distress and the symptom categories of depression, anxiety, and stress emerged as significant mediators in the aforementioned relationship, as veterans who reported greater meaning in life tended to report lower levels of psychological distress and better psychological adaptation. Taken together, the present findings highlight the potential for meaning and psychological distress to serve as protective and risk factors, respectively, in veteran psychological adaptation to civilian life.


Clinical Psychology



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