March 5, 2019

Moral Injury in Women Veterans

Moral Injury in Women Veterans: A Grounded Theory Study

Daniel Roberts, Project Staff, University of Phoenix

Joann Kovacich, School of Advanced Studies, University of Phoenix Online

Funded in part by the University of Phoenix

Moral injury is a topic that is getting considerable attention from the military chaplaincy and veteran research fields.  Multiple definitions for moral injury exist, and there are two prominent instruments for determining if a person experienced a potentially moral injurious event.  There is no symptomatology instrument for moral injury.  Current definitions and scales were developed using sample populations with few women soldiers in them.  Including the concrete experiences of women is a hallmark of feminist research.  This qualitative grounded theory project will use feminist trauma theory and create an explanatory theory of moral injury as it pertains to U.S. women veterans.  Up to 20 female ex-service members will be interviewed and salient literature will be analyzed.  This study may serve as a precursor to other projects that could further expand the field of women veteran research and develop a symptomatology instrument.

There are two common instruments for determining if a person has experienced a potentially moral injurious event (PMIE): The Moral Injury Event Scale (MIES; Nash et al., 2013) and the Moral Injury Questionnaire — Military (MIQ-M) version (Currier et al., 2015a).  The general problem is that both scales were created and validated with little input from women.  Taking all of the samples together, less than 20% of participants were female.  From a feminist point of view, constructs and instruments that were created with such a low percentage of female involvement cannot be appropriately applied to women.  Radical feminists believe that only through women-only approaches to research can the real links to patriarchy and misogyny be revealed in the traumas that women experience (Berg, 2002).  Basini (2013) provided a pragmatic example of how a system for reintegrating female war veterans failed because it was created without significant input from women.  Hesse-Biber and Leavy (2007) argued that one cannot simply “add women and stir” (p. 36) and meet feminist requirements for research aimed at helping the female gender.  The specific problem is that previous attempts at MI constructs and instruments were created with little input from women and may not be useful for the female soldier population.

This study uses feminist trauma theory.  Feminist theories rely heavily on the concrete experiences of women (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2007).  Evidence-based approaches to women’s psychological issues that privilege quantitative methodologies do not fully capture the complexities of trauma (Tseris, 2013).  Qualitative approaches are necessary to describe the social, cultural, and power factors of traumatic events that affect women (Tseris, 2013).  Feminists are critical of mainstream psychology that pathologizes women (Berg, 2002).  Psychological practices that focus on “assessing and treating the effects of trauma” (Tseris, 2013, p. 156) without also considering the concrete experiences of women do not meet feminist requirements.  This study develops a feminist theory of moral injury based on the traumatic episodes of women veterans