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Validity and Reliability

For any study to be reliable, its findings have to be valid. The study entitled “Associations among Personality, Combat Exposure and Wartime Atrocities” by Howloka et al. (2012) reports important findings that are relevant in the field of psychology. It is essential to evaluate the study’s reliability and validity.
To start with, a research cannot be said to be valid or reliable if it does not address a particular issue that is relevant in a specific field of practice. The underlying purpose of research is to understand a problem and use evidence to suggest a solution to the situation. To this end, the issue of the impacts of wartime combats on a combatant’s personal health and the possibility of engaging in such commissions in the future is relevant in psychology. Exploring the issue, as does the researchers in this study, helps in further understanding of the issue. Such an understanding is essential in developing effective solutions to the problem or issue.

In answering their research questions and testing their hypothesis, the investigators used a representative sample. 1,104 army and marine veteran solders that had fought the Vietnam War were used randomly to avoid bias. This was the most appropriate population to collect data from for the study. The study also employed an efficient data collection methodology, which entailed personal interviews and popular and tested self-report measures, including the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2, the Combat Exposure Scale and the War Stress Inventory (WSI). The ANOVA technique and uni-variate analysis was used to analyze the data collected. In the analysis, a variety of variables were compared, including the three PSY-5 scales and exposure to combat. The data analysis yielded the conclusions that the researchers report.

From the foregoing, it is worth noting that the validity of a study is highly dependent on the sample (Social Research Methods, 2014). The current study used a sample population which was representative of the entire population. The sampling process was also free from bias. A representative, unbiased sample enables the researchers to collect data that can answer the research questions in an objective manner. What is more, the resulting data was analyzed objectively using reliable data analysis tools. This makes the conclusions of the study valid and credible. Through a credible sampling and data collection design, the investigators were able to test their hypothesis and arrive at credible findings. It is worth noting that when investigators fail to use an unbiased, representative study sample, the resulting data can be misleading. Generalizing such conclusions can be equally misleading as well. As such, the overall validity of the research, as well as the reliability of the final conclusions becomes questionable. It is for this reason that researchers ought to develop a strong research methodology to ensure that the study is valid and its findings are reliable.

The chosen study is reliable. The findings reported by the researchers can be applied in a wide range of areas, including in policy development with the goal of understanding soldiers’ combat tendencies and prevention of commission of atrocities in times of war. The acknowledgment and explanation of the applicable limitations to the study enhances its credibility. Unless a research is shown to be valid and reliable, its findings may not be applied in real life practice.

Scientific Merit of the Study

The scientific merit of a study describes the ability of a research to address a particular issue that is relevant in the field of practice. A study can be said to be of merit if it contributes new knowledge to the relevant field. In this case, for the study entitled “Associations among Personality, Combat Exposure and Wartime Atrocities” to be of merit, it should contribute new insights about the issue of combat exposure for soldiers who fight at combat war zones, including the psychological implications on such an exposure ( et al., 2012; Jennings, 2006; Litz and Schlenger, 2009).

In addition, the scientific merit of a research is related to how the researcher incorporates existing theories. The scientific merit of the chosen study can be evaluated by considering whether or not it incorporates relevant psychological theories. To start with, the study contributes some useful, new knowledge in the field of psychology theory. The study explores the relationship between combat exposure for soldiers and their inclination to engage in or witness commission of atrocities such as mutilation of enemies and attack of civilians during wartimes. From the foregoing, it can be seen that the study contributes new knowledge towards the understanding of the effects of a soldier’s personality or prior combat exposure on their likelihood for participation in or witness of atrocities committed during a war. The findings which the researchers arrive at help in explaining soldiers’ behavior at the battlefield. The new knowledge also helps in predicting a soldier’s possibility to take part in or witness commission of a wartime atrocity. Considering that previous researchers failed to give clear explanations on the relationship between individual personalities and combat exposure, and the likelihood to commit or witness commissions of atrocities during a war, the study’s contribution to existing literature is valuable. The new knowledge can be used by psychologists to predict a soldier’s likelihood to engage in a wartime commission of atrocities, as well as explaining mental and psychological issues that soldiers may face before and after their engagement in a combat war (Hochgesang, Lawyer and Stevenson, 1999; Brian, Hernandez, Allison and Clemans, 2013).

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The study entitled “Associations among Personality, Combat Exposure and Wartime Atrocities” advances the bio-psychosocial theory of causation. As they try to seek answers to their research questions, the investigators in the chosen study use the aforementioned theoretical model to explain the relationship between a soldier’s personality and previous exposure to combat situations, and their possibility to engage in or witness perpetuation of atrocities during a war. The aforementioned theory holds that an individual’s tendency to engage in or tolerate something is caused by either an internal or external force. The selected research confirms this theory. While the study does not extend the theory or draw from many other theories, basing its findings on the bio-psychosocial theoretical model makes the research credible.

Advancement of Knowledge

The study titled “Associations among Personality, Combat Exposure and Wartime Atrocities” goes a long way in advancing the knowledge about the topic it explores. As it were, the existing literature on the effects of personality and combat exposure is not as diverse. However, there are studies which explore post-deployment characteristics of solders (Hochgesang, Lawyer and Stevenson, 1999; Brian, Hernandez, Allison and Clemans, 2013; Jennings, 2006) and suicide risk for soldiers who have been exposed to warzone combat and atrocities. One study by Benedek and Grieger (2006) reports that warzone experience, post-traumatic depression and pre-deployment factors such as personality and anxiety are related to post-deployment violence and anti-social behavior for the affected soldiers. The selected study by Howloka (2012) makes a noteworthy contribution to the knowledge about the relationship between soldiers’ likelihood to participate in or tolerate commission of wartime atrocities.
To this end, the study discovers that both internal and external factors play a central role in influencing the behavior of soldiers at the war field. For example, as understood from the selected research findings, soldiers who have been exposed to a combat experience where they had to act aggressively are more likely to accept to be assigned to similar risky duties. This is because the pre-exposed soldiers may perceive this as another opportunity to act aggressively. Similarly, soldiers who have been exposed to combat in the past are more likely to participate in the commission of wartime atrocities, such as firing at unarmed civilians, mutilating dead bodies and shooting at an enemy who has already surrendered. Personal aspects which could be psychological or cognitive in nature can also increase the likelihood of a soldier participating in or witnessing commission of an inhuman act during times of war.

The findings augment the existing knowledge in many ways. For instance, reading the selected research report can help in understanding why a soldier who has been exposed to combat may act in an aggressive, violent or antisocial manner in the post-deployment period. According to Jennings et al. (2006), exposure to combat can have far reaching negative implications on a soldier beyond the battlefield, including stress and traumatic experiences. The study by Howloka et al. (2012) reports some interesting information about combat exposure. This way, the study goes a long way in advancing the knowledge of the short-term and long-term effects of exposure to war time atrocities.

From the foregoing, it can be said that the selected study advances knowledge in the field of psychology and related areas. The knowledge can be applied in a variety of practices, including understanding and predicting a soldier’s behavior after exposure to a combat experience, explaining the psychological, cognitive and mental implications of combat exposure on a soldier’s life during the post-deployment period, and whether or not a soldier is likely to participate in or tolerate commission of atrocities. The knowledge presented in the selected research report can also be used in decision making during the selection of military personnel to deploy to a certain battle field. The knowledge could help in making the right decisions. For example, when making a deployment, it would not be advisable to assign soldiers who were experiencing extremely negative post-combat exposure effects such as violent and anti-social behavior (Jennings, 2006). The points discussed above show that the chosen study contributes towards advancement of knowledge about the relationship between a soldier’s personality and combat exposure, and their likelihood to take part or tolerate war time atrocities.

Contribution to Theory

A good study should be able to contribute to an existing theory, or advance a new theory with a view to establishing principles for practice in a particular field. The chosen study contributes to theory in several ways. The researchers investigate the influence of individual personality and combat exposure on a soldier’s tendency to participate in or observe the commission of atrocities in times of war. Several studies have reported that exposure to combat during wartimes has far reaching consequences on the psychological and mental well-being of the participants. In light of this, it is worth to note that the practice of selecting soldiers who are suitable for a combat assignment needs a careful thought. Understanding the implications of personality traits and exposure to combat on the behavior of a soldier at the warzone is central to selecting the best combatants. To this end, it is important that there be a definite principle of practice or theory to guide the process. The findings reported by the researchers in the selected case can go a long way in designing a model for ensuring that individual personality characteristics and combat exposure aspects are considered when selecting soldiers to be assigned to a combat mission. In line with war laws, it is unlawful and criminal to commit atrocities. As such, leaving out soldiers whose pre- combat exposure is likely to motivate them to participate in or observe commission of atrocities without doing anything is one way of ensuring that a war is executed in line with the regulatory laws. For example, killing unarmed civilians or mutilating enemies, dead or alive is a war crime.

Considering the findings of the selected study, that soldiers who have been exposed to a combat experience or have a personality which can allow them to commit or tolerate commission of atrocities during a war are likely to commit the inhuman acts, it is important to ensure that such soldiers are not deployed to a combat commission. These findings can be used to develop an action model or theory whose principles can be applied in the practice of selecting combat soldiers. What is more, the study contributes to theories of practice in the area of psychology and mental healthcare. Understanding the findings and conclusions reported in the chosen study and mentioned in the preceding sections of this write-up, psychologists and mental health specialists can be able to improve their theory of practice with a view to ensuring that they make accurate predictions and explanations with regard to the likelihood of a soldier behaving in a particular way either before deployment to a combat mission, or in the post-combat period where the solders have to be re-integrated back into the society. To this end, the chosen study can be said to be contributing to existing theory of practice. This is majorly because the study findings are relevant, credible and can be generalized and incorporated in practice principles to improve outcomes.

To sum up, the selected study reports significantly credible and valid findings, which can be generalized and applied in the field of psychology. The research contributes to theory and advances knowledge on the relevant topic.