Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Psy.D. Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Academic Discipline

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Sandra Zakowski

Second Advisor

Marjorie Witty

Third Advisor

Wyatt Evans


Morally injurious events have been shown to increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depressive, and posttraumatic stress symptoms of combat veterans. Research has found that guilt and shame are associated with higher levels of symptomology following morally injurious events. Similarly, individuals who are high in trait proneness to guilt and shame may be at higher risk for developing symptoms following a morally injurious event; however, no research to date has examined this possibility. In addition, acts that go against what one considers morally right bring about cognitive dissonance which then leads to anxiety. In order to reduce anxiety caused by this dissonance, one may disengage from one’s moral beliefs. Thus, combat veterans who have experienced morally injurious events may engage in moral disengagement in order to reduce the anxiety and distress that follow this dissonance. The present study investigated the relationship between morally injurious events and psychological outcomes and the role of proneness to guilt and shame and moral disengagement as potential moderators of the relationship between these events and psychological outcomes in post-9/11 combat veterans. Exposure to morally injurious events was significantly correlated with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Neither moral disengagement nor proneness to shame and guilt moderated the relationship between exposure to morally injurious events and psychological outcomes.