Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Young men-Psychology, Recruiting and enlistment, Developmental psychology


Researchers have identified the youngest soldiers (17-24 years old) in the United States military as particularly vulnerable to the emotional and physical consequences of war, including death. This theoretical thesis examines the capacity of 17-24 year old males to conceptualize consequences fully -- i.e., make informed consent decisions -- about enlisting for combat. The focus on 17-24 year old males is due to their much higher involvement in military combat than female enlisted. Much current thinking does not question 17-24 year old males' capacity for informed consent, but recent neurological and developmental research documents that brain functions underlying decision-making are underdeveloped until at least age 25. This thesis reviews the current psychosocial and related neurophysiological research re: typical development of 17-24 year olds, emphasizing developmental vulnerabilities that impact decision-making and thus informed consent Additionally, ethical and moral responsibilities of professional social workers, individuals, and the collective society are reviewed – specifically, to educate others about the typical developmental vulnerabilities of 17-24 year old males; to advocate for a delay in sending them into combat until at least age 25, and to intervene in the healing of young returning veterans -- currently overrepresented among those injured in combat.




iv, 68 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 57-68)