Family Violence, Moral Injury and Shared Parenting: Towards an Explanatory Model

Session : Plenary 4: Intersection of Shared Parenting and Family Violence

  • Time : 1:45 pm PDT To 3:45 pm PDT on
  • Venue : Family Violence, Moral Injury and Shared Parenting: Towards an Explanatory Model

Full Abstract

The term ‘moral injury’ refers to the damage that may occur to an individual's moral conscience and values resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression (Haleigh et al, 2019). Derived from notions of ‘moral distress’ in the 1980s to describe the psychological conflict nurses experienced as a result of structural or ‘institutional’ constraints negating their ability to pursue what they considered to be ‘the right course of action’ (Jameston, 1984), the concept of ‘moral injury’ (Shay, 1998, 2002, 2010) has subsequently evolved as a response to the inadequacy of mental health diagnoses, such as PTSD, to encapsulate the moral anguish military service personal can experience following active duty in conflict zones (Litz et al, 2002) or unaddressed moral distress in healthcare professionals. Unlike PTSD's focus on fear-related symptoms, moral injury focuses on symptoms related to guilt, shame, anger or disgust (Farnsworth, 2014). It has also been posited as a useful model to adapt to family systems (Nash and Litz, 2013), when considering the secondary traumatisation or ‘compassion fatigue’ (Figley 1998) that can arise from the cumulative stress burden of living with and caring for a family member having experienced such trauma. In this presentation, I argue that the concept of moral injury has the potential to offer a useful explanatory model by which to deconstruct and better understand some of the underlying causes of family violence, both mental and physical, that can stem from the oftentimes profound emotional responses to family breakdown experienced by those affected. Such responses may include a sense of betrayal, anger and ‘moral disorientation’ (Tine, 2018), guilt and shame (Litz, 2009) as well as those of grief, sorrow, and regret. I go on to suggest that shared parenting represents one means by which separating families may ameliorate the more detrimental effects of moral injury, not just for parents and their children but for the wider familial and kinship groups to which they belong.