Everyday coping with moral injury: The perspectives of professionals and parents involved with child protection services

Wendy Haight, Erin Sugrue, Molly Calhoun, James Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This study examines how Child Protection Services (CPS) – involved parents and professionals describe coping with moral injury through resources available within their everyday lives. Moral injury refers to the lasting harm caused by one's own or another's actions in high-stakes situations that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. This harm can occur at multiple, interacting psychological, social and spiritual levels. We administered a modified version of the Moral Injury Events Scale (MIES) (Nash et al., 2013) to 38 CPS-involved professionals and 10 parents. We then conducted in-depth, semi-structured, audio-recorded individual interviews with them to elaborate their responses to the MIES, and reflect on scenarios involving moral injury. For the current study we analyzed the responses of those in the sample who reported moral injury (eight CPS-involved parents and 35 professionals.) None had received professional support to address their moral injury. Participants' described coping with moral injury through a variety of resources available in their everyday lives. Their coping strategies reflected multiple, interacting levels of the ecology. Participants contributed vivid and detailed accounts of coping through drawing upon and strengthening their: (a) psychological resources through stress reducing and meaning-making activities, mental toughness, agency, acceptance, strong values, self-reflection and forgiveness; (b) microsystems through social support and corrective experiences; (c) macrosystems through engagement in advocacy and social programs to support other parents; and (d) spiritual engagement. Our aim is to identify potential models of successful coping with moral injury in everyday life in order to identify viable targets for formal prevention and intervention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-121
Number of pages14
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Child welfare
  • Coping
  • Moral injury


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