Toward a Relational Theory of Harm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


My aim in this paper is to move toward a relational moral theory of harm through examination of a common yet underexplored form of child maltreatment: childhood psychological abuse. I draw on relational theory to consider agential, intrapersonal, and interpersonal ways in which relational harms develop and evolve both in intimate relationships and in conditions of oppression. I set forth three distinctive yet interconnected forms of relational harm that childhood psychological abuse causes: harm to the relational agency of individuals, harm to the relationships individuals hold with themselves, especially with regard to how they respect, know, and trust themselves, and harm to interpersonal relationships of both a direct and indirect nature in present and future timeframes. I close by noting that while relationships can be the site of human brutality that destroys the relational self, paradoxically and promisingly, they also can be a primary means of the relational reconstitution of the self. Ultimately, relational analyses of the harms of childhood psychological abuse reveal several key elements of a relational theory of harm and demonstrate the significance of relational harms for moral philosophy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Global Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Toward a Relational Theory of Harm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this