Why do youth enlist? Identification of underlying themes

John Eighmey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The U.S. military faces a substantial recruiting challenge stemming from the high percentage of youth pursuing education beyond high school, cyclical fluctuations in civilian job opportunities, and the occurrence of international and domestic events that can lead to periods of heightened concern. This article examines previous research and recent survey data to advance a conceptual framework concerning the themes found in youth goals relating to the possibility of military service. Using the data from the 2001, 2003, and 2004 Department of Defense Youth Polls, seven distinct motivational themes were identified and organized in the form of an Integrated Typology of Enlistment Themes. This typology shows how the concepts of "occupational" and "institutional" goals relate to tangible goals such as job benefits as well as to intangible goal themes such as "fidelity" and "dignity," which were the two leading themes identified in the analysis of the Youth Polls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-328
Number of pages22
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Advertising
  • Enlistment
  • Motivation
  • Recruitment
  • Youth


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