Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Cooperating University

University of Kentucky


Social Work

Degree Program

Social Work, PhD

Committee Chair

Van Zyl, Michiel

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Archuleta, Adrian

Committee Member

Archuleta, Adrian

Committee Member

Flaherty, Chris

Committee Member

Lawson, Thomas

Committee Member

Rote, Sunshine

Author's Keywords

military; social work; moral Injury; existential; PTSD; resiliency


Military personnel returning from deployment often report a variety of distressing symptoms stemming from exposure to prolonged, extreme deployment stress, and traumatic experiences. In addition to reporting symptoms consistent with the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, they are also known to report struggling with existential angst often leading to great despair and a sense of profound changes in the core of their being. While this phenomenon, referred to herein as Moral Injury, has traditionally received little attention, it is beginning to emerge as a potentially viable construct in practice and research and may assist in explaining the effects of war on the whole person than Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) alone. However, this concept has yet to be empirically defined, and its relationship to other known constructs such as PTSD, Disorders of Extreme Stress – Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS), and Existential Well-Being (EWB), appears to be conceptually related but has not well established. Using data gathered from the administration of the Spiritual Attitudes Inventory – Revised (2010) to OEF/OIF Servicemembers upon return from deployment, this study explored the relationships between the constructs in question to identify the differences, similarities, and relationships to obtain a clearer picture of the complexity of post-deployment distress. This instrument assessed respondents on each of the constructs including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PCL-M), Disorders of Extreme Stress – Not Otherwise Specified, Existential Well-Being. The theoretical model for the concept of Moral Injury was extrapolated from the DESNOS sub-domains. The results indicated that the parent constructs PTSD, Moral Injury and Existential Well-Being were highly correlated with and between one another. However, when the analysis delved into exploring the relationships at the sub-domain level, differences could be identified which provided a more detailed model of the thematic intersections between these constructs. By doing so, this study fills a gap in the current body of research by offering a preliminary conceptual model of Moral Injury from a symptomological perspective while also illustrating the relationship between this emerging construct, PTSD and Existential Well-Being.

Included in

Social Work Commons