Theses and Dissertations

Developing a Brief Measure of Sacred Loss and Desecration: Understanding the Role of Spirituality within Post-Traumatic Adjustment

Date of Award


Document Type



Clinical and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Joseph Currier, Ph.D.


Spirituality has been defined as a search for the sacred, which can take place in the context of a religious institution or in any distinctive practice, system, ideology, or philosophy. The term sacred represents that which is divine or “set apart” from what is common—something meriting reverence and honor. Searching for the sacred is something that can, therefore, apply to the theist and the nontheist alike in their pursuit of institutions, associations, and ideologies that facilitate the development of values, purpose, and ultimate meaning. When individuals experience traumatic events, the psychological, social, and physical effects of such crises are often seen as intimately related to sacred foundations that are at the core of the individual’s global meaning. When such foundations are threatened, lost, or destroyed, the psychological effects can be devastating. The Sacred Loss and Desecration Scale (SLDS; Pargament et al., 2005a) was developed to assess how negative life events can harm individuals’ sacred meaning systems in the context of something being lost or violated. Drawing on this measure, Study 1 was conducted to refine and validate a six-item, correlated-two-factor structural xiii model of the SLDS with two online samples of adults that were split evenly between theists and nontheists. The new SLDS-Short Form (SLDS-SF) displayed strong internal consistency and convergent validity with theoretically related constructs (e.g., Moral Injury, PTSD, depression, and spiritual struggles). Configural and metric invariance testing yielded evidence that the SLDS-SF is a universally valid measure, regardless of religious belief. In Study 2, the SLDS-SF was used to further understand the positive relationship between pre-military religious commitment and moral injury among 224 post-9/11 war-zone Veterans who were experiencing a struggle with their faith or spirituality. A mediation analysis conducted using structural equation modeling indicated that sacred loss and desecration partially mediated the relationship between pre-military religious commitment and moral injury. A significant indirect effect, β = .242, 95% CI [.125,.374], of pre-military religious commitment was observed through sacred loss and desecration, where moral injury accounted for 68.5% of the total variance within the model. Overall, these findings demonstrate the utility of understanding how sacred foundations are important facets of an individual’s global meaning system and how they can be impacted by traumatic events.

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