Voluntary Terminations from Military Service

by Ross Stolzenberg, John D. Winkler

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This report attempts to integrate and critique the differing theoretical perspectives, methodologies, populations analyzed, and findings of several studies of why personnel leave the services. The core of the report's theoretical framework is Thibaut and Kelley's research on how people evaluate their membership in groups. It considers the influence of the following factors on voluntary terminations from military service: compensation; job security and dispute resolution procedures; amenities, conveniences, psychological rewards, and working conditions; and individual differences in pre-service attributes and demographic characteristics. The analysis suggests that terminations can be reduced by making personnel aware of the true value of their compensation, and using lump sum payments more extensively. Nonpecuniary factors also affect terminations. Findings indicate that mechanisms for resolving disputes improve retention; realistic portrayal of service life to new recruits fosters their retention; and voluntary termination is more likely if the recruit has a history of antisocial behavior, lacks a high school diploma, has a spouse and dependent children, or is under 18 years of age. The authors conclude that new data and new analyses are needed to make significant advances in knowledge about the causes of voluntary termination from military service.

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