United We Stand - Divided We Fall: A Standard Model of Unit Cohesion

Mikael Salo

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Research on unit cohesion has shown positive correlations between cohesion and valued outcomes such as strong performance, reduced stress, less indiscipline, and high re-enlistment intentions. However, the correlations have varied in strength and significance. The purpose of this study is to show that taking into consideration the multi-component nature of cohesion and relating the most applicable components to specific outcomes could resolve much of the inconsistency. Unit cohesion is understood as a process of social integration among members of a primary group with its leaders, and with the larger secondary groups of which they are a part. Correspondingly, included in the framework are four bonding components: horizontal (peer) and vertical (subordinate and leader) and organizational and institutional, respectively. The data were collected as part of a larger research project on cohesion, leadership, and personal adjustment to the military. In all, 1,534 conscripts responded to four questionnaires during their service in 2001-2002. In addition, sociometric questionnaires were given to 537 group members in 47 squads toward the end of their service.

The results showed that platoons with strong primary-group cohesion differed from other platoons in terms of performance, training quality, secondary-group experiences, and attitudes toward refresher training. On the sociometric level it was found that soldiers who were chosen as friends by others were more likely to have higher expected performance, better performance ratings, more positive attitudes toward military service, higher levels of well-being during conscript service, and fewer exemptions from duty during it. On the group level, the selection of the respondents own group leader rather than naming a leader from outside (i.e., leader bonding) had a bearing not only on cohesion and performance, but also on the social, attitudinal, and behavioral criteria.

Overall, the aim of the study was to contribute to the research on cohesion by introducing a model that takes into account the primary foci of bonding and their impact. The results imply that primary-group and secondary-group bonding processes are equally influential in explaining individual and group performance, whereas the secondary-group bonding components are far superior in explaining career intentions, personal growth, avoidance of duty, and attitudes toward refresher training and national defense. This should be considered in the planning and conducting of training. The main conclusion is that the different types of cohesion components have a unique, positive, significant, but varying impact on a wide range of criteria, confirming the need to match the components with the specific criteria.

Original languageFinnish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-952-10-6694-8
Electronic ISBNs978-952-10-6695-5
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 5144 Social psychology

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