Meaning, role, and place of values in the life of a soldier

The issue of axiological aspects in the functioning of a modern army is an extremely challenging, multifaceted, and very complex field of study. The research area of values has a long tradition and has often been a subject of interest. Moreover, it has been widely adopted in many branches of science such as philosophy, cultural anthropology, pedagogy and even security and defence. Research on the structure of character indicates “that character develops within specific social, cultural and institutional contexts” (Schmid Callina et al., 2018, p. 1), it reveals the complexity of the human psyche and, thus, also the system of values that drives and inspires people’s behaviour. However, the concept of values is not unambiguous. Over the centuries, many philosophers presented different approaches and definitions. Nonetheless, the concept of values came into widespread use in the 19th century thanks to German humanists: Lotze, Nietzshe and Kant. Back then, the idea that values cannot be treated in isolation from the subject was introduced, although in their subjectivity one can find universal validity (Lewicka, 2015). According to Rokeach, values can be defined as “persistent beliefs that a particular course of conduct or ultimate state of existence is personally or socially preferred over an alternative course of conduct or final state of existence” (Cieciuch, 2013, p. 28). Moreover, every individual bases his or her life on a certain hierarchical index of values which is relatively permanent (Rokeach, 1973). Most people value similar features, although they distribute preferences differently. Therefore, based on his research, Rokeach proposed a set of 36 values which can be divided into two categories: terminal and instrumental. The terminal values define the goals that a human pursues during his life, and the instrumental values define certain behaviours and attitudes. On the basis of these assumptions, he developed a measurement tool called Rokeach Value Scale (RVS). RVS does not come from any complete theory, “it was created during analysis, studies, interviews moreover, it was based on literature” (Cieciuch, 2013, p. 30). On a methodological level, “the test-test reliability of the instrument, which has been investigated in intervals has generally been found to be reasonable” (Thompson et al., 1982, p. 900). However, “the nonparametric nature of the data severely limits the kinds of analyses that can be appropriately used” (Chapman et al., 1983, p. 419). In line with previous studies, the process of the catalogue creation consisted of two stages. The aim of the first stage was to create a long list of values taking into account literature reviews and detailed analysis of extensive interviews with adult Americans and psychology students. The second stage covered the selection of multiple criteria. Rokeach eliminated values which were repetitive, negative, too detailed and specific for a particular group of people. As a result of his survey, he obtained two lists, each consisting of 16 values, which constituted the basis for further modifications and works. It is worth mentioning that RVS gives a significant advantage because it facilitates the execution of the research. The respondent has to organise the list of values according to the importance parameter. It involves a sort of self-diagnosis, because only the interviewee knows what he desires and values the most. In addition, he will not resort to the so-called social approval factor because all of the values are more or less socially acceptable. The next important issue regarding values is their hierarchy. According to the English dictionary, it is a system in which members of an organisation or society are ranked according to relative status or authority. A human being, despite the capability of showing values in everyday life, can also accept those values which exist outside his moral system. At the same time, he often focuses on the values that matter most to him. The choice mainly depends on the socio-cultural context. “The more preferred a value is, the higher place it occupies in the hierarchy” (Lewicka, 2015, p. 19). A permanent hierarchy of values, consistent with the socio-cultural context is necessary for making the right decisions and presenting specific types of behaviour. Man finds his identity by seeking what is valuable to him, that is, what is worthy of him and what testifies to his dignity. One of the criteria suggesting to a man which value should be chosen in a particular situation is “the place it occupies in the hierarchy” (Lewicka, 2015, p. 21). It would seem that a candidate for a professional soldier has a sense of pride in belonging to the military community and is ready to make special commitments to his homeland (Dean’s Convent, 2006). According to Hołówko, an interwar Polish politician and diplomat, the foundation of the army is the soul of a simple soldier. Let the Polish officer remember what treasure was given to him by the Nation. This treasure constitutes the independence, wholeness and freedom of Poland. The goal of every officer ought to be that the nation educated by him in the art of war, led by him to fight, and to win this fight. And it will happen when the soldiers go to this fight not under threat of terror, but with a joyful song on their lips, with deep trust in their officers, who taught them passionately and generously to love their Homeland (Hołówko, 1966, p. 88). The above quote was taken from the book “Polish Officer” written in 1921 and it demonstrates the model of virtues that should characterise an officer and, at the same time, a candidate for a professional soldier.

On the other hand, according to Spustek (2012), a significant number of candidates for professional soldiers in their efforts to obtain a military university index are guided by values other than those that result in a straight line from patriotism and love for the homeland. Therefore, the army should focus on accomplishing a very important task, namely, educating future generations of officers so that the notion of a soldier who is also a citizen can be achieved. Military service constitutes “a specific stage of educational impact, especially on the young generation, creating favourable conditions for intensifying the education process and shaping personality” (Urbański, 2004, p. 96). In the educational process, it is important to shape an axiological attitude, “which rests on the ability to choose between values based on the adopted system” (Gajda, 2013, p. 20). As a powerful identity-shaping process, “military socialization establishes cognitive referents, such as images, values, norms, that soldiers learn to invoke to guide their operational decisions and behaviour” (Volker, 2000, p. 178). Since legal regulations cannot completely cover all obligations, “creating and supporting a sense of responsibility and honour are critical for the effective operation of an army” (Yi-Ming, 2014, p. 350). Commanders and citizens expect the youngest soldiers to be moulded in the spirit of patriotism, responsibility for the homeland, democracy and common European values. In the literature on upbringing and shaping military attitudes, one can find a number of features describing a soldier, officer, and cadet. They draw attention to the fact that it is impossible to define a soldier’s attitude in general, but only to define certain orientations that pose the real goals of a cadet’s development and education. These include the following attitudes:

  • - patriotic and civic: love of Homeland, thinking in terms of state and nation, accepting military values and goals;

  • - professional and military: motivation to perform military service, identification with the army as an institution moreover, with the assigned role and military environment;

  • - moral and combat: courage, bravery, solidarity, compliance with international humanitarian law;

  • - discipline: understanding, conviction of rightness and compliance with the army rules and regulations (Bera, 1999).

In the sociological analysis of the army, a lot of space is devoted to the morals of a soldier. Despite this fact, it cannot be clearly defined what ethical values a soldier should possess. Courage, which is undoubtedly a desirable trait, can imperceptibly turn into recklessness. This in turn can lead to a huge tragedy, on an individual as well as state level. While blitheness can cause unhappiness, too much responsibility can even lead to a situation in which the order is not executed. However, the most essential attribute that soldiers should possess is a very good knowledge of the military craft. In the 21st century, theoretical knowledge is not sufficient. The progress and evolution of civilisation, the linkage between humanistic and technical knowledge, all mean “that military service requires complex training, based largely on previously acquired general knowledge” (Jeżyna et al., 2008, p. 15). The past years have brought a number of changes into the Polish Army: the withdrawal from compulsory military service, modernisation of equipment and professionalisation of the army mean that the objectification of lower military rank soldiers is no longer present. The army has become better prepared to respond to current and anticipated military and non-military threats while respecting the dignity of all soldiers. Humanisation of the army means that an equal amount of attention is devoted to technical issues and to a single soldier considered as a man with all his strong and weak points. In theory, two dominant ways of thinking about security can be distinguished. The first one shows security which equals military power. Present-day international politics deals with different security factors. National Security Science focuses mainly on state activities. What is more, governmental and military organisations as well as grassroots and paramilitary movements are of great value. Moreover, individuals also play an important role as far as safety is concerned. In the case of the army, we take into consideration tactical potential, which is perceived as a systemic feature defining combat possibilities and capabilities of a given system (Williams, 2012). For many years, military specialists have shared the need to create highly functional, dynamic and effective military structures which can achieve intended goals. Modern fighting techniques and military equipment are required to meet such expectations. However, the army does not solely consist of combat aircraft, armoured vehicles, radio stations, ships and other equipment. The most important are people - soldiers. They are responsible for using the equipment in a battle. Following Dyrda, it can be assumed that “even the most perfect technique, the most modern means of combat remaining in the hands of poorly trained soldiers with low morale, do not guarantee victory” (Dyrda, 2014, p. 90).

Moral values and ethics in literature

The review identifies that there was some research and a few studies conducted on soldier’s moral values and ethics. Part of the research was devoted to theoretical considerations about the role of values in soldiers’ lives: Knorr (1970), Kilmer (1986), Baynes (1987), Siebold (1996), Shamir et al. (2000), Murphy and Farley (2002), Goyne (2004), Britt et al. (2006), Carlson and Kewley (2008), Spustek (2012), Baker (2012), Yi-Ming (2014), Dyrda (2014), Schmitz-Wortmeyer and Branco (2019). Empirical research focused mainly on experienced soldiers serving for many years but the youngest soldiers were also examined: Borman et al. (1975), Ginexi et al. (1995), Jarmoszko (1996), Han Chan (1999), Franke (2001), Bera (2003), Horyń (2004), Forgette-Malone and Paik (2007), Marcinkowski (2012), Yi-Ming (2015), Woodward et al. (2016), Schmid Callina et al. (2018). However, there is a significant gap in the research and studies carried out. As a result of the analysis, it was found that there is no study that would focus on a cross-sectional group of cadets in order to examine whether there are differences in the value system during a course year. Conducting such research can provide us with remarkable results.

Methodology Research purpose, problems, and hypotheses

The above theory points out that values play an important role in the life of every individual, especially a soldier who should be guided during the service by the wealth of the homeland, as well as honour and dignity. The soldier operates in a world which, within its borders, increasingly goes beyond the spiky walls of a military unit or proving ground. The army operates according to strict rules, but it is never an activity detached from the surrounding reality. Therefore, soldiers’ ethical standards and types of behaviour which are present in the army are strongly influenced by the local culture. In everyday performance, an individual makes assessments and gives judgments, i.e. formulates different opinions (dis)approving phenomena and behaviour according to a specific criterion and assigns them a place in a hierarchy of values. Therefore, bearing in mind the multidimensionality and the complexity of the indicated theory, the hierarchy of values and the norms of behaviour that occur in the lives of cadets have been examined. The subject of the conducted research deals with the values and foundations of candidates for professional soldiers. The aim of the study is to characterise the value system of Air Force University military students (cadets) and to indicate whether the course year is a variable that causes differentiation in the system of values and behaviour patterns of the respondent groups. Literature devoted to these issues is mainly based on the empirical study of professional soldiers and senior cadets in the context of their duty and respect for their homeland. Therefore, the study attempted to determine the norms and behaviours they show in everyday life and to compare the results obtained with those that are stereotypically associated with the military and appear in the literature. The subject of the research will consist of 2 complementary issues: values and attitudes of candidates for professional soldiers.

The research problems were formulated in the form of the following questions:

P.1. What values do respondents prefer?

P.2. Are there any differences in the value system between individual years of studies? If so, what are they?

P.3. Are there any differences in the value system between individual and standardised research samples taking into account the age of the respondents? If so, what are they?

P.4. What is the main purpose of the cadets’ sacrifice? Are there differences between individual years of studies? If so, what are they?

P.5.How do cadets assess different examples of social behaviour from everyday life?

The following hypotheses have been formulated:

H.1. The most important values are family safety, love, honesty and responsibility.

H.2. The values are not a derivative of a course year.

H.3. The values are not a derivative of a cadets’ age.

H.4. Most of the cadets are ready to make sacrifices to defend their homeland.

H.5. Cadets condemn behaviour related to bribery, abuse of power, and cheating but they are more liberal on matters related to sexuality.

Normalisation was developed by Jaworowska, Marczak and Bitner (2011).

Research sample

The sample selected group which took part in the survey consisted of 136 cadets from first to fifth+ year of studies. It was carried out in November and December 2018. However, it needs to be pointed out that about 240 students were asked to participate in the research on a voluntary and anonymous basis, but only slightly more than half of them submitted fully completed questionnaires. This may be due to lack of time or some kind of reluctance among young soldiers to complete surveys, because during the academic year and medical examinations, they are asked repeatedly to express their opinions in this way. During the selection of the research sample, I was guided by the random selection of the sample, in which single elements of the population from the entire population are randomly selected for sampling, without returning. Consequently, all randomly selected samples with a fixed number of N have the same probability of being drawn. It is possible to determine the minimum sample size based on specific parameters I used. The sample of 240 cadets was calculated using the formula for the minimum number of people in the sample, using standard statistical assumptions: 95% confidence level, 0.5 fraction size, and 5% maximum error. The number of respondents was then divided into 6 which gave 40 cadets per year of studies. 40 respondents from each year were selected on a convenience sample basis. 100% of the research group were men aged 18-26 who study astronautics (75%) and navigation (25%). The age structure is shown in Table 1.

Table 1

The age structure

Year of studiesNumber of distributed surveysNumber of correctly completed surveys
Average age of respondents
Standard deviation

The independent variable of the level of research was used with six indicators: from the first to the fifth year of studies and the so-called “promotional class” (V+) students, who have already graduated with a master’s degree in engineering, and were waiting to be commissioned as officers during the solemn ceremony. The largest group represented students from the fifth + year of studies (26 cadets) and the second year of studies (25 cadets), the least represented was the fifth year of studies (18 cadets) and the first year of studies (20 cadets). In the questionnaires, as a place of origin, the respondents indicated a village or a town with up to 5,000 residents (32%) or a city with a population of over 150,000. Almost 90% of them were high school graduates, the rest technical secondary school graduates. 37% of the respondents take part in religious practices once a week, and 1/5 do not participate in them at all. Rather interesting results were obtained from the question about political views, because as many as 48% of the respondents said that they do not know exactly what their views are, 38% of students sympathise with right-wing parties, 11% with centre parties and only 3% with the left-wing parties. It is worth mentioning that an important factor that often determines the choice of one’s future is one’s parents’ education, and in the case of military students - the parents’ or the legal guardians’ attitude to the military service. Children from military families (either the father or the mother, or both, are in the military, and those whose relatives and friends are soldiers) “have a certain understanding of military lifestyles, which informs their selection of a future career in the military” (Yi-Ming, 2015, p. 718). Therefore, 49% of parents/legal guardians graduated from university, 23% have full secondary education, 25% graduated from vocational schools and only 3% graduated from primary school. The vast majority (83%) of the cadets said that none of their parents/ legal guardians is or was a professional soldier, and 17% responded that at least one of the parents/legal guardians is or was a soldier. Most parents (52%) are officers, 26% constitute non-commissioned officers and 22% are in the rank of a private. The modern Polish Army is an army of professional soldiers with a highly hierarchical structure. Enlistees who want to become professional soldiers apply on their own volition. This fact is confirmed by the results of studies according to which 78% of respondents decided to join military voluntarily. A person’s decision to join the military is “complex and is commonly motivated by a number of factors” (Ngaruiya et al., 2014, p. 443). As the main reason for joining the army, the respondents indicated a desire to pursue their own passions and interests. Other important factors were considered to be decent material and living conditions after graduating from university, and an attractive syllabus. Only one person replied that patriotism and willingness to serve the homeland helped him to make the decision.

Research instruments

The conducted research was of a quantitative nature. Poll research is mainly used in projects in which individuals constitute units for further analysis. The survey analysis allows original data to be collected to describe the population. Due to careful random selection, it is possible to receive a group of respondents who reflect the characteristics of a wider population (Babbie, 2004). A self-created questionnaire with 46 closed questions was used, they concerned motivation to serve in the army, value system, attitude towards superiors and colleagues, readiness to sacrifice, age, origin and other data of the respondent. However, in this article, only part of the questionnaire was used for the analysis. The main part of this research and what has been presented in this thesis was concluded by the Rokeach Value Scale (RVS) in the Polish adaptation of Brzozowski (1996). It was used to determine the value system of the subjects. RVS is one of the simplest, “most interesting and statistically best developed methods of value testing” (Kościuch, 1983, p. 224). It is widely used to examine people of different ages, sexes, religious or political beliefs. The respondent’s task is to organise two lists according to their importance: “terminal values (giving purpose to life) and instrumental values (constituting the means to achieve the goal), each of them consists of 18 terms” (Cieciuch, 2013, p. 28). Table 2 contains lists of terminal and instrumental values.

Table 2

Terminal and instrumental values

Terminal valuesInstrumental values
Family SecurityAmbition
National SecurityCleanliness
Mature LoveIntellect
A Comfortable LifeLove
A Sense of AccomplishmentIndependence
A World at PeaceResponsibility
True FriendshipCourage
Inner HarmonyBroad-Mindedness
A World of BeautyObedience
Social RecognitionHonesty
An Exciting LifeForgiveness

The next part concerned the issue of readiness to sacrifice. In this question, the cadet had to indicate the importance of the purpose for which he is ready to sacrifice (shown in Table 3).

Table 3

Aim of sacrifice

Aim of sacrifice
for interesting adventureto improve material conditions
for military careerfor the defence of democracy
for better understandingfor the defence of homeland
the orderfor the defence of peace

The last fragment concerns assessments of social behaviour (shown in Table 4). It was developed on the basis of research conducted by the Polish Public Opinion Research Center. The cadet had to indicate how he assesses various behaviour, e.g. taking bribes or pre-marital sex.

Table 4

Types of social behaviour

Types of social behaviour
being in a non-marital relationshipcontraception
cheating on spouse/partnereuthanasia
neglecting work dutiesdivorce
the use of official position for own purposeaccepting bribes
the employer’s use of the employeeabortion
giving bribesspeeding
pre-marital sexnot taking part in elections
buying fake clothesusing public transport without valid tickets
fictious donationshomosexuality
beating children

Data processing and analysis Terminal values

The results obtained were compared using the Kruskal-Wallis test for several independent groups. The single-factor analysis of the variance of Kruskal-Wallis, or ANOVA Kruskal-Wallis ranks described by Kruskal and Wallis is an extension of the U-Mann-Whitney test on more than two populations. This test is used to verify the hypothesis about the insignificance of differences between the medians of the studied variable in several populations (with the assumption that the distributions of the variable are close). Basic conditions of the usage: measurement on the ordinal or interval scale and the occurrence of an independent model. As a result, a comparison of terminal values and then instrumental values of the subjects was obtained taking into account the year of studies. The results of the terminal values test are shown in Table 5.

Table 5

Kruskal-Wallis test of the terminal values

Terminal valuesYear of studies (N)
The average value rank for the examined year of studies
Chi-squareAsymptom- atic value
I (20)II (25)III (24)IV (23)V (18)V+ (26)
Family Security66,9077,8660,8573,2072,4460,904,050,54
National Security60,7759,0674,5463,3775,9777,315,130,40
Mature Love63,0876,2464,8169,1566,3669,541,660,89
A Comfortable Life67,9066,6657,4870,2465,6781,334,850,43
A Sense of Accomplishment68,0065,2467,7566,5973,6470,850,640,99
A World at Peace45,0074,8073,1074,8565,4472,779,130,10
True Friendship76,1570,2067,2566,8758,9270,211,990,85
Inner Harmony79,7260,9468,2972,0068,7564,063,080,69
A World of Beauty64,5061,5466,1366,1175,1777,963,260,66
Social Recognition77,2267,5682,9463,8064,6456,197,340,20
An Exciting Life69,4373,8463,3565,9171,4767,631,100,95

As a result of the Kruskal-Wallis test, none of the terminal values have achieved an asymptotic significance of less than 0.05. Therefore, there is no basis for rejecting the null hypothesis. It can be concluded that the preferences regarding the values which cadets consider important in their lives are not a derivative of a particular course year. During the statistical analysis of the frequency of answers concerning values, it was found that the most important life goal is family security. This value appeared most frequently in first place. The following values appeared in the following order: mature love, wisdom, self-respect. Thus, we can roughly determine the priorities that are most important in the life of a professional soldier. The last places in the hierarchy were occupied by an exciting life, equality, social recognition, and a world of beauty. Additionally, the comparison of choices between student communities showed some differences and similarities. All cadets put family security first. However, the subsequent positions in the ranking were no longer identical. Half of the students indicated mature love as second in the hierarchy, and wisdom as third. Further items slightly differed depending on the course year. The last places were occupied by values such as equality, social recognition and the world of beauty. Furthermore, national security and the world at peace turned out to be rather important. Taking into consideration all cadets, national security was in sixth position, and when individual course year was considered, it was placed from fourth to eighth position. The world at peace was in twelfth position taking into account all cadets, and from sixth to fourteenth position when individual course year was considered. The exact results of the terminal values are in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Ranking of cadets’ terminal values

Following the analysis, it is worth noting the position which a comfortable life occupied. This value in the ranking of individual course year took positions from tenth to thirteenth, so it was placed rather at the end. During their education, cadets are provided with gratification for their school performance. What is more, they are provided with accommodation, meals and uniforms. With fixed salaries, employee benefits, and a complete retirement system as enlistment motivation, cadets typically consider serving in the military to be an occupation, and “that the purpose of their work is to earn money” (Yi-Ming, 2015, p. 718). Compared to the families of average university students, “the financial status of the families of cadets is typically poor, which prompts them to join the military to reduce their family’s financial burden” (Jeffrey et al., 2001, p. 187). These factors have a great impact on the comfort and the quality of life of a soldier as well as the safety and financial stability of the whole family. A value which is connected with a comfortable life is an exciting life. This goal took fourteenth or fifteenth place. Military service is an action-packed period full of interesting activities e.g. flight training, shooting training, patriotic celebrations or international trips and outings. Another important goal is social recognition, which took sixteenth, seventeenth or eighteenth place. In the light of research conducted by the Public Opinion Research Centre, the profession of a soldier has gained social trust and prestige for several years (CBOS, 2013). The value of equality occupied positions from thirteenth to sixteenth. All cadets - candidates for professional soldiers - are obliged to comply with the regulations, the order of the day, and disciplinary rules, which make all cadets equal. In view of the above, it can be concluded that the values that are particularly characteristic for military service do not occupy high places in the hierarchy of values.

To check whether age is significant for assessing the validity of individual values, a Spearman’s ρ rank correlation coefficient between age and individual values was calculated. Spearman’s ρ allows the strength of the relationship between age and the assessment of individual values to be determined. When analysing the information contained in Table 6, it should be remembered that negative correlations mean an increase in the significance of a given value with age, and positive correlations - a decrease in the significance of a given value with age. In general, the strength of the relationship between age and value assessment is not large, as the highest correlation coefficient is only 0,146 (terminal value – a world at peace). In addition, the average rank and median rank divided into two parts are shown:

Table 6

Spearman’s rho, mean, median of terminal values

Terminal valuesrhoGroup AGroup B
I and II years of studiesStandardized research sample aged 16-20III, IV, V and V+ years of studiesStandardized research sample aged 21-30
Family Security-0,1083,4934,8633,4923,802
National Security0,0316,76512,65148,40812,2514
Mature Love0,0056,2257,8175,8644,363
A Comfortable Life0,0879,981111,381310,231112,7213
A Sense of Accomplishment0,0288,5389,72108,891010,3911
A World at Peace0,14610,00912,201411,201211,5213
True Friendship-0,0258,5197,4378,0175,995
Inner Harmony-0,04810,29119,831010,13119,5210
A World of Beauty0,11915,111613,201515,431612,9614
Social Recognition-0,12416,671511,261213,361412,5113
An Exciting Life-0,01112,421310,881212,041211,6812

  • - group A – I and II years of studies (average age: 19, 80 and 20.92),

  • - group B – III, IV, V and V+ years of studies (average age: 21.96; 22.61; 23.78 and 24.27).

The comparative analysis included only those values that the cadets considered the most and least important, and those that are important for the army. They have been marked in grey in Table 6. The most important values (mature love, wisdom, self-respect) and least important values (exciting life, equality, social recognition, world of beauty) have a similar rank in both the standardisation group and cadets’ group. A very big difference in assessment occurs in the values important for the army (national security, world at peace). National security and world peace were rated much higher by cadets than by the standardisation group. This positioning of values in the hierarchy may indicate a greater situational awareness of the cadets in the context of the tasks the army has to fulfil and the fact that they themselves are part of the army.

Instrumental values

The results of the Kruskal-Wallis test for instrumental values are in Table 7.

Table 7

Kruskal-Wallis test of the instrumental values

Instrumental valuesYear of studies
The average value rank for the examined year of studies
Chi-squareAsymptomatic value
1(20)II (25)III (24)IV (23)V (18)V+ (26)

As a result of the Kruskal-Wallis test, none of the instrumental values achieved an asymptotic significance of less than 0.05. Therefore, there is no basis for rejecting the null hypothesis. It can be concluded that the preferences regarding the values which cadets consider important in their lives are not a derivative of a particular year of study. During the statistical analysis of the frequency of responses regarding instrumental values, it was found that the most important feature in life is responsibility. The next places were taken by: honesty, ambition, courage. The last places in the hierarchy were occupied by: cleanliness, cheerfulness, forgiveness and obedience. The comparison of choices between student communities showed some differences and similarities. Almost all grade levels put responsibility first. Only the year V + put honesty first. However, the subsequent positions in the ranking were no longer identical. Further items slightly differed depending on the course year. The last places were occupied by such values as: cheerfulness, forgiveness and obedience. The exact results of testing instrumental values are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Ranking of cadets’ instrumental values

In the analysis of the results obtained, it is worth paying attention to the correlations that occurred between terminal values and instrumental values. Terminal values, such as mature love, constituted the second most important goal in the life of cadets; surprisingly, the instrumental value that is love took eighth place. Similar differences apply to wisdom and intellect. Terminal wisdom came third and instrumental intellect tenth. Interesting results also apply to two instrumental values obedience and independence. The General Regulations of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland state that “the organisation of the army is based on the hierarchical subordination of soldiers” (Polish General Staff, 2014). The hierarchy in the army is a criterion for assessing a soldier’s obedience. Therefore, it can be said that on the one hand, cadets do not value obedience (rank 18), and on the other hand, they do not value independence (rank 9).

Similar comparisons for terminal values were made for instrumental values. They are shown in Table 8.

Table 8

Spearman’s rho, mean, median of instrumental values

Instrumental valuesrhoGroup AGroup B
I and II years of studiesStandardized research sample aged 16-20III, IV, V and V+ years of studiesStandardized research sample aged 21-30

The comparative analysis included only those values that the cadets considered the most and least important, and those that are important for the army. They have been marked in grey in Table 8. Compared to terminal values, instrumental values have more diverse ranks. Among the most important values, only responsibility was assessed similarly. Because the military aspect, it is worth emphasising the much higher position of courage among cadets than in the standardisation group. All the least important values (cleanliness, cheerfulness, forgiveness, obedience) were assessed similarly.

Willingness to sacrifice and the aim of it

According to Jeżyna, Gałkowski and Kalinowski, ethics “indicates the values and obligations of their implementation” (Jeżyna et al., 2008, p. 112). If something needs to be done, it has to be done regardless of other factors. Heroism is inscribed in everyone’s life, regardless of age, origin or gender. However, military service requires much more sacrifice, including even sacrificing one’s life. However, the reasons for this may be different and, therefore, cadets were asked to indicate the reasons why they would be the most and the least willing to sacrifice themselves. Detailed results of the answers to this question, taking into account the year of studies of the surveyed cadets, are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Willingness to sacrifice and goal

Jeżyna, Gałkowski and Kalinowski stated that each organised group requires “ordering the behaviour of its members so that the activities of individual units serve the common good of the whole” (Jeżyna et al., 2008, p. 113). The army, as a highly hierarchical and bureaucratic organisation, has many regulations and instructions that define the way soldiers behave towards each other. They also define the use of military property. Obedience, which is an essential part of an orderly life in such an institution, serves to achieve the goals of the group. In response to the question about readiness to sacrifice depending on the purpose, cadets from the first, second, third and fourth years of studies put order in last place. By definition it is an authoritative command or instruction. Pursuant to the General Regulations of the Polish Armed Forces, “the person issuing the order is obliged to take into account the degree of preparation of the subordinate, conditions and circumstances of the execution of the order and ensure the necessary forces and means” (Polish General Staff, 2014); it should additionally comply with applicable national and international law. There are a number of penalties for disobedience. However, their main task is to show the requirement to comply with the rules and rules prevailing in the army, which at the same time leave no room for spontaneity and voluntary behaviour. The last position, occupied by order in the hierarchy of readiness to sacrifice, forces a discussion about the situation in the army and is, in a sense, a yellow warning light for commanders and superiors that something disturbing is happening. On the other hand, all years of studies replied that they were ready to devote themselves to defend their country. According to the military oath, a soldier should be ready to make a sacrifice and shed his own blood in the event of a threat to the freedom, independence and security of the homeland. The most common expression of love “for their own land and for their own nation is the desire for their good” (Jeżyna et al., 2008, p. 80), which can take various forms: from economic progress, through the innovation of citizens to the consolidation of democratic and law-abiding structures of the country. In third and fourth positions, the respondents indicated democracy and peace as the values for which it is worth risking their own lives.

The assessment of behaviour and attitudes

There are different types of behaviour which, as far as morality and law are concerned, are judged as reprehensible. They are more or less common, arousing controversy, and sometimes even gaining social consent. A list of these types of behaviour was presented to the respondents for further evaluation. Using a scale from 1 to 5, on which 1 meant that the conduct was always wrong and, therefore, could never be justified, and 5 - that there was nothing wrong with it and no need to justify, they expressed their attitude towards individual behaviour. It should be taken into account that this type of survey, carried out using the questionnaire, is largely marked by declarations. Therefore, the answers to questions about certain standards of conduct do not always fully reflect the real views or behaviour of respondents. The context means that when answering such questions, they are not guided by the actual attitude to the issues discussed, but by the position they should take in a given situation. A cumulative summary of students’ assessments of behaviour in their everyday life, taking into account all years of studies, is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4

A comprehensive summary of the assessment of behaviour and attitudes by all years of studies

In relation to the attitudes indicated in the questionnaire, it can be seen that the most disapproval voices were work related. More than half of the respondents said that the abuse of employees, using of the official position for one’s own purposes, giving and accepting bribes are immoral and can never be justified. Similar criticism appears when cheating on a spouse/ partner. Surprisingly greater assent was given for premarital sex, contraception, and being in a non-marital relationship. Taking into consideration the year of studies, the analysis indicates that there are some differences in the assessment of behaviour and attitudes. A greater level of moral liberalism is visible among cadets from the second and the fifth year of studies as opposed to the third and fourth. On worldview issues, which have recently been most frequently raised in public debate (homosexuality, shortening the life of an incurably sick person at his request, using contraception), the biggest differences in the assessment were visible. The reasons for this phenomenon cannot be clearly stated: the respondents are of similar age, a similar percentage of them comes from a small town, they go to church at least once a week and have right-wing political views.


This study examined cadets’ value priorities. The results revealed as many similarities as differences between examined groups. As a result of the research, a certain idea of the values, features and behavioural patterns appeared. According to the Kruskal-Wallis test, neither the terminal values, nor the instrumental values achieved an asymptotic significance of less than 0.05. Therefore, there is no basis for rejecting the null hypothesis. It can be concluded that the preferences regarding the values which cadets consider important in their lives are not a derivative of a particular year of studies. The statistical frequency analysis shows some similarities in the assessment of cadets› values. The values and features which occupied the first and last places on the RVS scale were almost identical for years of studies. The most significant were family security and responsibility, the least world of beauty and obedience. In the case of military service, national security and world at peace constitute very important goals. Taking into consideration all cadets, national security was in sixth position, and when individual years of studies were considered, it was between fourth and eighth position. World at peace, on the other hand, was in twelfth position in a common hierarchy and between sixth and fourteenth position when individual years of studies were considered. In the analysis of intermediate instrumental and terminal values, no reasons for such a differentiated response were found among cadets of different years of studies. It is worth noting, however, that respondents from the same course year gave similar answers on a given issue. This may indicate that each of the years of studies, on the basis of shared experiences, background, exercises and practices as well as the influence of commanders and superiors, could develop their own hierarchy of values.

The hierarchy in the army is a criterion for assessing a soldier’s obedience. Therefore, it is worrying that the readiness to sacrifice yourself because of the order issued was in last place in the ranking of goals. However, the top places were occupied by goals related to the wealth of the homeland and the well-being of citizens. All cadets pointed out that they were immediately ready to fight to defend their homeland, democracy and peace. Later positions were occupied by the goals related to material well-being and professional benefits. The respondents shared the same opinion in terms of readiness to sacrifice depending on the purpose. As far as the general public’s attitudes are concerned, it can be observed that the most disapproved of issues were work related. Greater assent was given for premarital sex, contraception and being in a non-marital relationship.

Based on the research, it can be concluded that all cadets, regardless of their age, have a similar hierarchy of values to standardisation groups. Goals and values related to their homeland and family are considered most important. The terminal and instrumental values they rejected display that they have great dedication to the service and totally focus on it. The high quality of the above factors will improve the effectiveness of military operations the use of the potential possibilities in case of an armed struggle.

For contemporary social research, which includes research in the field of security, learning about reality is not the only goal. It is more important to stimulate cognitive processes and use the obtained results practically so that you can shape and plan transformations of reality. A deeper analysis of the army’s social system will reveal the internal, social and psychological hidden elements of the army. Based on observations, it is possible to determine the complex structure of the army, completely different from the one seen on a daily basis. One of the elements of this structure is educational processes. The process of shaping soldiers can be compared to a production line on which material (a young man who joined the army) undergoes processing (upbringing). The quality of the final effect depends on the quality of the material - its sociological and psychological conditions. Using methodological statements about the role of psychosocial preparation of soldiers for action, it is necessary to take into account new phenomena that will affect its quality. In a future armed conflict, peace and stabilisation missions, the role of the soldier’s morale and psychological preparation will be important. The issues of preparation for participation in possible activities must be considered in the context of the factors determining the victory. Today, many theorists believe that a potential war will have previously unknown requirements not only in combat technology, but also for soldiers. Therefore, the problem of the value and role of man and the technique that he will have should be included in unity and taking interrelationships into account. Military sciences emphasise the decisive role of man and even put forward the thesis that “even the most perfect technique, the most modern means of combat remaining in the hands of poorly trained soldiers with low morale, does not guarantee victory.”

This type of research can allow the modification of military education programmes in such a way that they take into account the most real conditions. In light of the changes taking place in the modern world, it is therefore necessary to consider what new and more effective subjects should be introduced into the curricula so that graduates of officers’ schools are educated leaders, educators of soldiers, and professionals of the soldier’s craft. Changes should be introduced in the education system of officers’ schools and in the forms and methods of shaping civic attitudes. However, reforms cannot be carried out without a thorough analysis of the people concerned. In conclusion, further research should focus on examining students from remaining military academies to see if the length of the service and academy socialisation account for different responses. The analysis should also take a longitudinal approach, following the same student officers to observe differences in value priorities and importance between the time they enter and leave the academy.