Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Gina P. Owens

Committee Members

Dawn Szymanski, Kirsten Gonzalez, David Patterson


Exposure to morally injurious events has consistently been correlated with negative mental health outcomes for military servicemembers and veterans (Bryan et al., 2014; Currier et al., 2015a; Currier et al., 2015b; Currier et al., 2017; Dennis et al., 2017; Jordan et al., 2017; Maguen et al., 2009, 2010; Maguen, Vogt et al., 2011; Nash et al., 2013). However, some servicemembers and veterans may experience a deeper sense of understanding of the event and/or growth after a potentially morally injurious experience through a process called meaning-making (Park, 2013). The present study seeks to examine the relationship between individual coping styles and resulting moral injury and/or meaning made after a morally injurious experience (MIE). Given the relative recency of research on moral injury and its associated negative mental health outcomes, it is important to continue to parse out the factors that influence mental health outcomes such as moral injury or meaning made. The present study posits two mediation models wherein trait mindfulness, psychological flexibility, religious coping, and proneness to moral emotions mediate the relationship between exposure to a potentially morally injurious event and resulting moral injury or meaning made. The findings demonstrated partial support for the hypotheses. Propensity for shame mediated the relationship between potentially morally injurious events and moral injury, such that higher propensity for shame resulted in greater likelihood of moral injury. Psychological flexibility mediated the relationship between potentially MIEs and meaning made, such that higher psychological flexibility resulted in greater meaning made. These findings have implications for both prevention and treatment of moral injury.

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