A Theoretical Framework on the Relationship Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Moral Injury
by Jennifer S. Wortham, Dr.PH, MPH
Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health,
Summary: Moral Injury (MI) is a relatively new syndrome characterized by profound psychological distress experienced by witnesses or perpetrators of violent crime, abuse, or a situation that challenges one’s deepest moral code and their ability to trust in others or themselves. Given the depth of betrayal and trauma victims of interpersonal abuse and community-based violence experience, especially children we propose expanding the definition of MI to include victims of potential morally injurious events such as ACEs, harassment, and interpersonal violence, or community-based crimes, etc. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. ACEs are associated with numerous health concerns and social, and behavioral problems throughout the lifespan, including substance use disorders. MI may also alter the victim’s spiritual formation destroying a potential protective mechanism for one’s health and wellbeing. This presentation will address the concept of moral injury as applied to children with a history of ACEs, and the potential adverse impacts to their spirituality, health and wellbeing over the lifespan.
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