Ethical conflicts, moral distress, and moral action in social work

Sagit Lev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the diverse ethical conflicts facing social workers, who often find it difficult to act in accordance with their moral and professional obligation to their clients due to organisational constraints and restrictions. ‘Moral distress’, a theoretical and empirical term taken from the nursing literature, refers to ethical conflicts of this type and their emotional ramifications. Despite the burgeoning discourse on moral distress and its manifestations in social work, ambiguity exists regarding the types of conflicts that should be included in this term, as well as the relationships between its environmental and personal components. In addition, although theoretical models emphasised the relationships between moral distress and moral action, empirical research knowledge on these relationships is limited. This article maps the existing research knowledge on ethical conflicts, moral action, and moral distress in social work and proposes additional qualitative and quantitative research directions that will expand the scholarly knowledge regarding these components as well as the relationships between them. Enriching the research knowledge regarding moral conduct in social work may contribute to the development of organisational and professional strategies to cope with these ethical challenges in the profession.

Translated title of the contribution קונפליקטים אתיים, מצוקה מוסרית ופעולה מוסרית בעבודה סוציאלית
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Ethical conflicts
  • moral action
  • moral distress


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