On moral grounds: Moral identity and moral disengagement in relation to military deployment

Miriam C. de Graaff*, Ellen Giebels, Desiree E.M. Verweij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Following Blasi’s self-model of moral functioning, this exploratory study aims to gain insight into the construction of moral identity among military professionals experiencing daily moral dilemmas during deployment. Semi-structured interviews with 45 servicemen were content-coded and analyzed, exploring relationships between moral identity and verbalized moral disengagement. The results revealed three patterns, giving direction for further research. First, the analyses suggest that a higher moral awareness is associated with more justifications for one’s own behavior. Second, leaders showed more inclination toward conscious moral identity than their subordinates. Third, the number of moral dilemmas experienced during deployment were similar for servicemen of all ranks. Moreover, critical self-reflection and self-assessment were relatively underreported across all ranks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-375
Number of pages13
JournalMilitary Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2020


  • dilemmas
  • identity
  • military
  • moral disengagement
  • Morality

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