Morally Injurious Experiences and Risky Behaviors in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans: A Community-Based Study
In modern warfare, fighting can frequently depart from traditional rules of engagement, thereby exposing greater numbers of theater veterans to morally ambiguous circumstances. Recent research has identified the potential moral and ethical implications of participating in modern warfare as possible contributors to readjustment difficulties among Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans. Specifically, behavioral scientists have postulated that post-deployment risk-taking behaviors among veterans could be collateral signs of a moral injury (MI). Using the newly developed MI questionnaire – Military Version (MIQ-M; Currier, Holland, Drescher, & Foy, 2013), this study examined the impact of potentially morally injurious experiences (MIEs) on post-deployment recreational risk-taking behaviors in a sample of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans enrolled in a community college. In addition to the MIQ, participants completed a measure assessing a range of recreational harmful risk behaviors (e.g., substance misuse, dangerous driving habits, problematic sexual practices, physical altercations, unhealthy self-care practices, risky recreational activities, self-sabotaging behaviors at work or school) and several other theoretically relevant instruments for this population to assess combat exposure, depression, and posttraumatic stress. The author hypothesized that exposure to MIEs (higher MIQ scores) would uniquely predict post-deployment recreational risk-taking behaviors, even after controlling for general combat exposure and mental health variables. In general, results from this study do not support the hypothesis. However, findings do support and extend previous studies in a number of important ways and identify several public health problems related to this student veteran population that warrant further research considerations.
Currier, Joseph M.
Iraq War, Afghan War, Veterans, Combat, Risk-taking
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