Re-orienting narratives of moral injury towards positive development: The experiences of emerging adults with child welfare histories

Ruth G Soffer-Elnekave, Wendy Haight, Ndilimeke Nashandi, Minhae Cho, Johara Suleiman, Sookyoung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is the second in a series of papers from a mixed methods study examining moral injury in childhood and adolescence as described by emerging adults with histories of child welfare involvement. This paper focuses on the ways emerging adults may alleviate their moral injury, grow and develop. Twenty -eight emerging adults (18–26 years) who reported exposure to morally injurious events during childhood or adolescence on a modified version of the Moral Injury Events Scale (MIES; Nash et al., 2013) participated in life story interviews. Life story analyses of psychosocial contexts considered resiliency, especially any re-orientation of participants’ narratives of moral injury away from the anomie, guilt, shame, and rage characteristic of moral injury, and towards themes such as hope, forgiveness, and gratitude. In addition, psychosocial-spiritual contexts that may support these shifts in meaning were explored through thematic analyses. Findings indicate that supportive relationships, especially with caring adults, engagement with spirituality, and access to prosocial activities provide foster youth with opportunities to re-orient their moral injury narratives, and provide a foundation on which to build towards recovery. Implications for policy, practice and research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106922
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Gamble-Skogmo Endowment in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of these organizations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child welfare
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Foster care
  • Moral injury
  • Narrative
  • Positive psychology
  • Resilience


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