Understanding moral injury from a character domain perspective.

Hazel R. Atuel*, Nicholas Barr, Edgar Jones, Neil Greenberg, Victoria Williamson, Matthew R. Schumacher, Eric Vermetten, Rakesh Jetly, Carl A. Castro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Within the past decade, the emerging field of moral injury has focused mostly on the clinical dimension of a traumatic event (Griffin et al., Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2019, 32, p. 350). This article will present a character dimension of moral injury and briefly introduce a dual pathway model of moral injury reflecting clinical and character dimensions. The investigation of the character domain borrows from the theoretical and empirical bases of moral philosophy, moral psychology, character psychology, and social psychology. Hence, this multidisciplinary understanding of moral injury encompasses: (a) moral failure, or the failure to adhere to a virtue as prescribed by a group or institution, (b) suffering or death as a direct result of moral failure, (c) unethical marking on a person’s character, and (d) experience of identity negotiation between the real self and the undesired self. This character framework attempts to advance a broader theoretical foundation for moral injury that has wider applicability to the varieties of human experience, and reflects a deeper understanding of the self-concept that is not defined by and does not necessarily reflect clinical impairments. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Public Significance Statement—This article discusses how moral injury arises when the experience of suffering caused by moral failure (i.e., the lack of human goodness) is reflected onto one’s character and identity. Moral injury is defined as a less than virtuous state of being (in the Aristotelian context of character and identity) arising from suffering or even death brought about by one’s own or another person’s moral failure. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • character
  • identity
  • moral injury
  • self
  • virtue


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