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Exploring the role of moral injury outcomes in intimate relationship functioning among U.S. combat veterans

APA Citation:

Fernandez, P. E., & Currier, J. M. (2023). Exploring the role of moral injury outcomes in intimate relationship functioning among U.S. combat veterans. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0001553

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study examined the links between moral injury, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and intimate relationship functioning. 65 Veterans in marriages or domestic partnerships completed assessments of their PTSD symptoms, distress related to moral injury (e.g., guilt and shame for things they have seen or done), and intimate relationship functioning. Overall, after accounting for PTSD symptoms, more moral injury-related distress was linked to poorer intimate relationship functioning.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Marine Corps
Air Force
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Quantitative Study


Fernandez, Paola Estefania, Currier, Joseph M.


Objective: Moral injury entails psychological, social, and possible spiritual issues that might interfere with veterans’ functioning in romantic or intimate relationships. To date, research has not examined the contribution of moral injury outcomes in this core functional domain in many veterans’ lives. Method: In total, 65 combat veterans who were engaging in a peer-led intervention for moral injury in a Veteran Service Organization completed the Expressions of Moral Injury Scale, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) checklist for DSM-5, and the romantic relationship subscale of the Inventory of Psychosocial Functioning Scale. Results: Bivariate analyses revealed that moral injury and PTSD symptoms were each associated with worse relationship functioning among the veterans. When including moral injury and PTSD symptoms as predictors in a multivariate analysis, only moral injury was uniquely linked with poorer relationship functioning. Conclusions: Overall, these findings suggest that moral injury could play a pernicious role in many veterans’ issues in relationship problems with their spouses or partners. Future research needs to examine the potential utility of addressing moral injury among veterans who are struggling to meet demands for intimacy and connection in their intimate or romantic relationships. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Psychology Department, University of South Alabama, PEF
Psychology Department, University of South Alabama, JMC


moral injury, relationship functioning, PTSD

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  November 2023

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