Moral Injury as a Social Phenomenon: Looking at the Unique Relationship with System Justification

Anna Harwood-Gross*, Michelle Vayngrib, Eran Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Moral Injury (MI) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are potential outcomes following combat military service which exposes veterans to a range of potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs). Given the hypothesized social nature of MI symptoms, it was predicted that System Justification, the tendency to defend and justify systems, even when they may be disadvantageous, would be uniquely related to MI, compared to PTSD. A total of 146 male combat veterans filled in questionnaires relating to PMIEs (MIES), MI (EMIS-short), PTSD symptoms (PCL-5) and System Justification (GSJS). PMIEs (self, other and betrayal related) were all related to higher levels of MI. A parallel mediation model was conducted and demonstrated that PMIEs (self) were associated with higher levels of MI and PTSD symptoms and that MI symptoms mediated the relationship between PMIEs (self) and lower System Justification. There was no mediation effect of PTSD symptoms. This relationship was strongest when veterans did not perform reserve duty and thus were not affiliated with the military. The findings support the theory that MI symptomology, as opposed to PTSD symptomology, has a greater relationship with worldviews such as the relationship to societal systems and that this is greatest when transitioned to civilian life.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)472-489
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Military
  • moral injury
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • system justification
  • veterans


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