The physical bravery study

Findings and implications for small, innovative research studies with military/veteran populations

Authored by: Kristen J. Vescera , Jacie Brown , Catherine Hausman , Bruce Bongar

The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367237066
eBook ISBN: 9780429281266
Adobe ISBN:


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Physical bravery is described as an action in which a person risks his or her own safety in an effort to save another's life. Using positive psychology theory, there are many different situations where physical bravery could be construed as strength rather than a “hero complex.” Examining physical bravery as strength has potential to contribute to the literature on problems such as suicide while avoiding the negative stigma that can be a barrier for working with military populations. In 2012, the Physical Bravery Survey (PBS) was developed by Professor Bruce Bongar's Clinical Crises and Emergencies Research Group at Palo Alto University as a self-report tool to evaluate individuals’ own personal histories and beliefs regarding acts of physical bravery. Past PBS data has been collected to evaluate active-duty service members, veterans, Army Reservists, military cadets, and civilian community college students. This chapter presents findings on respondents’ beliefs about physical bravery and highlights the research problems that may arise when collecting data with populations not often studied on this topic. Implications and further research could identify risk and resilience factors for mental health diagnoses such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), violent tendencies, and suicide risk.

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