Support for moral injury in children; multiple injuries

The latest research suggests that “meaning making” (a sense of purpose) can be used to improve children’s understanding, sense of purpose and narrative behind their experiences of parental PTSD. It needs to be part of interventions for children of service families to address moral trauma and support their wellbeing (May, Van Hooff, Doherty, & Carter, 2023). 

Parents can be supported to understand this and start identifying their own beliefs about the world, how they communicate those beliefs to their children, and how those beliefs influence their child’s interactions with the world, socially and beyond (May, 2024). Protective factors of identity, moral positioning, purpose or “meaning making”, and “authentic pride” can help children to make sense of their experiences of a family impacted by service-related PTSD (May et al, 2023, Rogers-Baber, 2017).


Helping children to see a rationale in the social purpose, honour and sacrifices of their parent’s service has been shown to mitigate some of the negative impacts of parental PTSD for children. This includes experiences of stigma in “being different” from other families, enabling children to identify their family’s challenges with a sense of authentic pride (May et al., 2023).

New research findings of a PhD researcher (May 2024) show that parents and children can be supported to think about reframing their narratives of stigma and trauma to growth and resilience. This can be combined with concepts of post-traumatic growth theory with attachment theory to work towards healthier attachment patterns between children and parents in service families (May 2024). A therapist or program may assist children and parents in processing the trauma and reframing their connection with it. Consequently, this can improve their connection with the world and their place in it. This meaning-making and reframing aims to shift negative feelings and recognise strengths and personal growth through the moral injuries experienced to feel more enlightened and empowered. It can be complex and encompass grief and forgiveness or at least understanding of self or others, to make peace with the experiences and move beyond them, to grow, restore and often redefine values and a sense of hope (May, 2024).


Multiple moral injuries

Some members of our community carry multiple moral injuries. For example, a survivor of child sexual abuse might have a moral injury from the abuse, then another when their disclosure was ignored or disbelieved by a family member, then another due to the outcome of the subsequent court case due to an inadequate or unfair legal system.

Last modified: Monday, 12 February 2024, 12:40 PM