Morally Injurious Experiences and Meaning in Salvadorian Teachers Exposed to Violence

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Abstract

Helping professionals working to alleviate the effects of violence and injustice can confront morally injurious experiences (MIE) that violate deeply held moral values/beliefs, placing them at risk for burnout and trauma-related problems (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]). Focusing on 257 teachers from educational departments throughout El Salvador, we incorporated structural equation modeling (SEM) to examine (1) whether exposure to MIEs for this population (e.g., betrayal, witnessing harm to an innocent student) are directly linked with higher PTSD symptomatology and work-related burnout and (2) whether MIEs contribute to these outcomes via meaning made of trauma. SEM results revealed that MIEs were in fact uniquely linked with PTSD symptoms and burnout, above and beyond rates of direct victimization and demographic factors. In addition, greater MIEs were indirectly linked with study outcomes via the extent to which teachers were able to make meaning of their identified stressors. These findings support the importance of screening for MIEs among helping professionals and also suggest that meaning making could serve as a central mediating factor for how MIEs contribute to trauma-related problems among persons working to promote peace and justice in the world.

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