Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This thesis asks whether Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development and Victor Turner's theory of social drama can be usefully integrated to help social workers better understand the experiences and challenges of Vietnam veterans. Specifically, this thesis will apply Erikson's phase of identity consolidation and confusion that occurs in late adolescence. Turner's processual social drama will be applied to the rules, roles, and institutions of a changing society. The phenomenon is twofold: first, it comprises the social and ideological upheaval during the decade of the 1960s; second, it comprises the individual stories of challenge and change in the lives of working class white Vietnam combat veterans. Eight veterans selected by Murray Polner from among 204 he interviewed between 1967 and 1969 are considered. Integrating the two theories, the thesis concludes that society's rules – at work, in school, within the family – were inadequate to contain the intrapsychic and ideological ferment of the returned veterans. There was intense pressure from intrapsychic processes to change the rules and institutions, including those of mental health care, presidential nominating conventions, and foreign policy constructions. Second, there was intense pressure from both traditional and incipient social forms to contain individual crisis. Each was only partially successful. All of the veterans presented, regardless of policy views, experienced difficulty meshing their veteran identities with the extant social structures, and the society had difficulty changing to accommodate the new generation and its historically and personally unique experiences.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 58 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 57-58)