Why do they fail? A qualitative follow up study of 1000 recruits to the British Army Infantry to understand high levels of attrition

Matt Kiernan, Julie Repper, Antony Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: The British Army has over 100 career employment groups to which recruits may apply. The Infantry is one of these career employment groups; it accounts for 25% of the overall strength. It is of concern that Infantry recruit attrition within the first 12 weeks of training remains consistently above 30%. Poor selection methods that lead to the enlistment of unsuitable recruits have negative financial and personal consequences, but little is known about the personal experiences of those who fail. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this research was to understand why infantry recruits choose to leave and explore the personal experiences of those that fail. METHODS: This study draws on qualitative data from the second phase of a larger mixed method study. The foci of this paper are the findings directly related to the responses of recruits in exit interviews and their Commanding Officers' training reports. An exploratory qualitative, inductive method was used to generate insights, explanations and potential solutions to training attrition. RESULTS: What the data describes is a journey of extreme situational demands that the recruits experience throughout their transition from civilian life to service in the British Infantry. It is the cumulative effect of the stressors, combined with the recruit being dislocated from their established support network, which appears to be the catalyst for failure among recruits. CONCLUSION: There are clearly defined areas where either further research or changes to current practice may provide a better understanding of, and ultimately reduce, the current attrition rates experienced by the Infantry Training Centre.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-934
JournalWORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2015


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