Title: A case study to explore whether and how the impact of combat war trauma resulting in moral injury by significant adult caregiver affects young children through vicarious trauma.

Degree Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



First Advisor

Dr. Acacia Nikoi


Abstract This study examined how vicarious trauma can impact young children in a military family. Vicarious trauma is the effect of living with a person who was directly impacted by trauma of war combat moral injury. Moral injury is described as cognitive dissonance and a shattered moral covenant due to the violation of deeply held beliefs and values, and a breakdown of trust. Through an in-depth series of interviews with a parent of children who have experienced vicarious trauma due to combat-related physical and moral injury, findings reveal the direct negative social and emotional impacts on young children through their relationships in their home and school environments. An overview of how moral injury affected the primary caregiver is examined, along with the description of negative impacts on the young children in their daily routine. The parental perspectives reflect on the children’s personal experiences, which include discussions of frustrations, avoidance, violent physical abuse, yelling and screaming, anxiety, fearfulness, expressions of anger, and impulsive and violent actions with a non-violent intent of the young children in their daily routine, all of which appear to be a result of moral injury experienced by a primary caregiver. The discussion also examined what can be done to change the negative impacts by using strategies including love and nurturance, community resources, and networking implemented for policy change in communities for the families in need, who have experienced domestic abuse or vicarious trauma. Finally, this case study identifies emotional intelligence training along with other strategies for intervening with young children who need help with vicarious trauma, arguing that advocacy for young children is needed to strengthen their moral courage when their lives are impacted socially and emotionally by vicarious trauma.

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