Unraveling the Role of Forgiveness in Family RelationshipsGregory R. Maio and Geoff ThomasCardiff UniversityFrank D. FinchamFlorida State UniversityKatherine B. CarnelleyUniversity of SouthamptonTesting the idea that the process of forgiveness is intrinsically different across diverse relationships, thisstudy examined the role of forgiveness in different family relationships. In 2 laboratory sessions 1 yearapart, 114 families (each including 2 parents and 1 child) completed a new measure of family forgivenessand many individual-level, relationship-level, and family-level variables that have been previously linkedwith forgiveness. After validating the measure of family forgiveness in cross-sectional analyses, inves-tigators performed longitudinal analyses to examine the role of forgiveness in each family relationshipover the 1-year interval. Results indicated many important positive consequences of forgiveness onindividual traits, aspects of each family relationship, and general family environment. However, therewere also important asymmetries in associates of forgiveness across parent–child and parent–parentrelationships, demonstrating the relationship-bound nature of forgiveness.Keywords:forgiveness, family, self-persuasion, relationshipsMost conceptualizations of forgiveness describe it as a deliber-ative process that transforms a vengeful, negative response into apositive one (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990; de Waal,2000; Fincham, 2000; McCullough et al., 1998). That is, theforgiver actively attempts to move from negative thoughts, feel-ings, and behaviors toward the transgressor to more positivethoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Consequently, prior models offorgiveness have focused on individual social–cognitive pro-cesses, paying comparatively limited attention to the broader socialcontext of forgiveness (McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal,1997; Mikulincer, Shaver, & Slav, 2006; Paleari, Regalia, &Fincham, 2005).Although this work has made great strides, any complete un-derstanding will also have to include the type of relationshipbetween transgressor and victimandthe broader context in whichthat relationship is embedded (Fincham, 2000; McCullough &Hoyt, 2002). When forgiveness occurs in relationships, it mostlikely serves a purpose that is linked to the nature and functioningof the relationship itself. For example, the operation of forgivenessshould depend greatly on whether it occurs between two friends,between two married adults, or between a parent and a child,because these relationships subsume different roles and servedifferent psychological needs. Even studies of forgiveness in non-humans (primates in particular) have increasingly made familialrelationships, rather than individuals, the unit of analysis (de Waal,2000). In the present research, we examined the pivotal role of thisbroader social context in humans by testing whether forgivenessvaries across family relationships.