The Regretted Actions and Inactions of Military Veterans and Psychological Problems

Christian L. Williams, Howard Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The present study investigated regretted actions and inactions of military Veterans. The aims of this study were to: (a) explore whether acts of omission may be an important predictor of psychological problems; and (b) investigate Service Members’ endorsement of cognitions (i.e., regret) associated with their wartime actions and inactions. Method: 505 Iraq/Afghanistan military veterans (19% female) completed questionnaires measuring their (in)actions and the level of regret associated with their (in)action(s). They also completed questionnaires measuring PTSD, dysphoria, alcohol and substance use, and combat/postcombat experience. Results: Roughly half (49.3%) of the sample reported at least one type of action and/or inaction. When shared variance with common variables (e.g., age, combat experience) was removed, acts of omission were most strongly associated with psychological problems. The association between regret and psychological problems differed significantly depending on the type of action or inaction endorsed by participants. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that both acts of commission and acts of omission, and how they are interpreted, are important for understanding psychological problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Military
  • Moral injury
  • PTSD
  • Regret
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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