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Negative Posttrauma Cognitions Mediate the Association Between Morally Injurious Events and Trauma‐Related Psychopathology in Treatment‐Seeking Veterans

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Exposure to potentially morally injurious events has been shown to be associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptoms in military personnel. Few studies have examined factors that help to explain how potentially morally injurious events may contribute to the development of trauma-related psychopathology. Negative posttrauma cognitions are thought to play a role in the etiology of PTSD and depression following trauma; however, it is unclear whether more global beliefs about the self, others, and world play a role in the development of PTSD and depression due to morally injurious events. Using structural equation modeling, we tested whether morally injurious experiences were indirectly related to trauma-related psychopathology (PTSD and depression) through negative posttrauma cognitions in a sample of veterans seeking treatment for PTSD. An indirect effects only model best fit the data and showed that morally injurious experiences, specifically perceived transgressions by oneself and perceived betrayal, were indirectly associated with trauma-related psychopathology through negative posttrauma cognitions, β = .17; 95% CI [.04, .31] and β = .25; 95% CI [.11, .41], respectively. Our findings suggest that negative posttrauma cognitions may be an important mechanism linking exposure to morally injurious events and trauma-related psychopathology.

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