Morally Injurious Experiences, Meaning, and Spiritual Functioning in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

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The emergence of modern warfare has contributed to greater numbers of service members being exposed to morally ambiguous decisions and actions (e.g., harming civilians and non-combatants). The moral and spiritual implications of serving in combat have gained increasing attention since the new wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Litz et al., 2009). In particular, the injury to a veteran’s beliefs and moral expectations may also affect his or her ability to make meaning from the combat-related stressors and upon previously held religious and spiritual beliefs. In addition, spirituality/religiousness and ability to forgive may predict levels of meaning made in the face of morally injurious experiences. Using the newly developed Moral Injury Questionnaire – Military Version (MIQ-M; Currier, Holland, Drescher, & Foy, in press), this study examined the relations between morally injurious experiences (MIE), several spiritual/religious factors (daily spiritual experiences, religious coping, and forgiveness), and meaning made in a diverse sample of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who had enrolled in a community college since returning from their war-one deployments. In addition to the MIQ, participants completed the Integration of Stressful Life Events Scale (ISLES; Holland, Currier, Coleman, & Neimeyer, 2010), the Brief Religious Coping Inventory (Brief RCOPE; Pargament, Smith, Koenig, & Perez, 1998), the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (Underwood & Theresi, 2002), and forgiveness questions from the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality [BMMRS; Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging (NIA), 1999]. When controlling for demographics, military service factors, and general combat exposure (as assessed by Combat Experiences Scale, CES, Keane et al., 1989), exposure to morally injurious events (higher MIQ scores) uniquely predicted the meaning made of trauma β = -.43. In addition daily spiritual experiences and forgiveness were positively linked with meaning made, β = .35 and .22, respectively, while positive religious coping had an inverse relationship with meaning made, β = -.33. This study provides further support for the critical relationship between morally injurious experiences and meaning made, while also suggesting the need for more research on the importance of spiritual/religious beliefs in the process of meaning-making after combat deployment.

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PSYD in Clinical Psychology

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Currier, Joseph M.

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Iraq War, Afghan War, War, Veterans, Ethics




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