School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)


Fred Volk


Moral Injury, Meaning Making, Bicultural Identity Integration, Motivations to Enlist


Experiences in war are often traumatic in nature. Over the past thirty years, research has resulted in increased understanding of these experiences and the unique trajectory that values-based, as opposed to fear-based, traumas can cause. This study investigates these values-based traumas and the mental health outcomes that may result in a syndrome known as moral injury. The current research examined the relationship between potentially morally injurious event exposure and mental health symptomology. Event exposure was conceptualized both as objective occurrences and as the subjective experience of events, with notable distinctions in significance of outcomes. After attempting to replicate previous research findings for the relationship between these potentially morally injurious events and symptomology, including with meaning-making hypothesized as a key variable, two new variables of bicultural identity integration and motivations to enlist were introduced into the research analyses. It was hypothesized that bicultural identity integration would have statistically significant and negative correlations with all mental health outcomes and that bicultural identity integration would mediate the relationship between perceived moral violations and overall mental health outcomes, and these hypothesized relationships were supported. Hypotheses that intrinsic motivations to enlist would be negatively correlated with mental health outcomes and extrinsic motivations would be positively correlated with negative mental health outcomes were partially supported. This paper ends with discussion of the study results, including clinical implications, study limitations, and suggestions for future research.