Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. C. Richard Spates

Second Advisor

Dr. Amy Naugle

Third Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Karen Blaisure


Moral injury, military, psychology, posttraumatic stress disorder


An increasing amount of research conducted in recent years indicates that, in addition to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, moral injury is a key concept to recognize when considering the deployment experiences of service members. Although related to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, which is a fear-based mental health diagnosis, moral injury is a distinct concept. It acknowledges the possible prolonged negative psychological, social, and spiritual consequences that may occur after experiences that challenge and transgress one’s deeply held moral beliefs. Events such as perpetration of harm, failing to protect or prevent harm, and witnessing or learning about distressing acts committed by influential others are experiences with the potential to be morally injurious.

This exploitative study investigates military members’ and mental health providers’ current attitudes and beliefs regarding the concept of moral injury. The emergent data from a sub-sample of participants with a history of both military service and mental health training is also examined. Each group’s level of understanding of relevant moral injury terminology and its usage and perceived applicability to military deployment-related psychological experiences are compared and evaluated. Hypothetical scenarios within a deployment context with the potential to be morally injurious are also assessed, as are preliminary analyses on participants’ prior moral development and spiritual or religious involvement and upbringing. The comparison of the quantitative and qualitative data collected from service members, the military and mental health trained sub-sample, and the mental health professionals yields an informative picture of military personnel’s views on moral injury. The identified similarities and differences are a critical addition to the burgeoning research literature, as service members’ applied moral injury perspectives are presently underrepresented.

The findings of this study may assist in determining if expert information about moral injury is being disseminated to and consumed by the service member population, and which aspects of this concept service members note as potentially applicable to themselves and their deployment-related experiences. The results also offer military personnel an opportunity to share their perceptions with an academic audience, perceptions that may have otherwise remained generally unsolicited and overlooked. Ultimately, this study’s findings may assist in determining whether, how much, and in which direction moral injury should continue to receive further investigative attention, including construct validation and large-scale randomized control trials for therapeutic interventions.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access