Moral Injury and Social Well‐Being: A Growth Curve Analysis

Journal of Traumatic Stress

Ryan P. Chesnut, Cameron B. Richardson, Nicole R. Morgan, Julia A. Bleser, Daniel F. Perkins, Dawne Vogt, Laurel A. Copeland & Erin Finley

https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22567

Abstract

Moral injury (MI) may occur in the context of committing transgressions (i.e., self‐directed MI reactions), witnessing transgressions, or being the victims of others’ transgressions (i.e., other‐directed MI reactions) that violate an individual’s moral principles. Veterans with MI may experience impaired social well‐being (SWB). Studies on MI and veterans’ SWB have focused almost exclusively on social support and used cross‐sectional data. The present study used growth curve analyses to examine the associations between self‐ and other‐directed MI reactions and veterans’ levels of social support, social functioning, social activities, and social satisfaction over the first 18 to 21 months of their transition to civilian life (N = 9,566). The results demonstrated declines in all SWB outcomes, with self‐ and other‐directed MI reactions having differential effects. Higher versus lower levels of other‐directed MI reactions were related to lower baseline scores on all SWB outcomes, βs = −.06 to −.20, and steeper declines over time in social functioning, β = −.09, and social satisfaction, β = −.10. Higher versus lower levels of self‐directed MI reactions were related to lower baseline levels of social functioning, β = −.07, but higher baseline levels of social activity, β = .04. Higher versus lower levels of self‐directed MI reactions were related to a steeper decline in social activity over time, β = −.10. These findings present a more nuanced picture than that depicted by current MI theoretical frameworks and support further research to uncover moderators of the associations between self‐ and other‐directed MI reactions and SWB outcomes.

First published: 13 July 2020

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