Grumpy Young Men

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Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bryce J. Burton/

Marines know how to be agreeable

This will come as a big surprise to all those wives and girlfriends out there: a new study finds that men in uniform – even absent combat – are harder to get along with than civilian guys.

Military men tend to be more aggressive, more competitive, less concerned with others’ feelings, less neurotic and less likely to worry than their civilian brothers, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science.

This could be a good thing, the study notes:

“For example, aggressive behavior has long been associated with the training of soldiers, as a number of aggression-related skills (e.g., marksmanship) constitute specific training goals,” it says. “Given that aggression is associated with lower levels of agreeableness, higher levels of agreeableness may interfere with effective training and performance.”

But before you print out and wave the study at your uniformed husband when he gets home (tonight, or next year), a couple of caveats: the report used data from German males, so its applicability to U.S. or other militaries may be suspect. “Similarly,” it adds, “selection effects may differ in countries without conscription.”

“Our study found that individuals who serve in the military tend to exhibit lower levels of agreeableness than their civilian counterparts,” Joshua Jackson, the lead author of the study, told Battleland. Jackson is an assistant professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Agreeableness is dimension of personality that has to do with how considerate and friendly one is when interacting with others; individuals high in this trait tend to be outgoing and warm, whereas those who are lower tend to be more aggressive and hostile,” Jackson adds. “These differences in personality among military servicemen continued to exist after they left the military and entered the labor force or went to college, suggesting that military service has long-term effects on the personality of their recruits.”

Bottom line, according to the report:

Overall, it thus appears that the man makes the military and the military makes the man.