Life Satisfaction Among Veterans: Unique Associations With Morally Injurious Events and Posttraumatic Growth

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Abstract

In the nascent literature on the sequelae of exposure to potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs), there has been little consideration of the possible associations between PMIE exposure and positive, growth-related outcomes. Broadly, trauma exposure is associated with negative changes in life satisfaction. However, posttraumatic growth (PTG) has also been examined as an outcome of trauma exposure, and is positively associated with life satisfaction. The current study expands the literature on PMIE exposure by investigating the relations among this unique stressor, PTG, and life satisfaction. The current sample consists of 155 U.S. military veterans at a large Veterans Affairs medical center. Regression analyses revealed both PMIE exposure and PTG predict higher life satisfaction, with each predictor contributing a significant amount of unique variance. Follow-up analyses using PMIE subscales revealed PMIEs characterized by violations by self, but not violations by others or perceived betrayal, predicted higher life satisfaction. Findings indicate PMIE exposure may relate to well-being differently than do other forms of trauma and suggest PTG alone may be insufficient to explain this relation. Based on these findings and emerging definitions of moral healing, we suggest a framework for understanding the differing pathways between PMIE exposure and life satisfaction versus development of psychopathology, advocating for future research into the role of values-aligned living in thriving versus suffering subsequent to PMIE exposure.

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