unreaveling the rle of forgivenss - Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2008 Vol 94 No 2 307319 Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological

unreaveling the rle of forgivenss - Journal of Personality...

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Unraveling the Role of Forgiveness in Family Relationships Gregory R. Maio and Geoff Thomas Cardiff University Frank D. Fincham Florida State University Katherine B. Carnelley University of Southampton Testing the idea that the process of forgiveness is intrinsically different across diverse relationships, this study examined the role of forgiveness in different family relationships. In 2 laboratory sessions 1 year apart, 114 families (each including 2 parents and 1 child) completed a new measure of family forgiveness and many individual-level, relationship-level, and family-level variables that have been previously linked with 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 relationship over the 1-year interval. Results indicated many important positive consequences of forgiveness on individual traits, aspects of each family relationship, and general family environment. However, there were also important asymmetries in associates of forgiveness across parent–child and parent–parent relationships, demonstrating the relationship-bound nature of forgiveness. Keywords: forgiveness, family, self-persuasion, relationships Most conceptualizations of forgiveness describe it as a deliber- ative process that transforms a vengeful, negative response into a positive one (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990; de Waal, 2000; Fincham, 2000; McCullough et al., 1998). That is, the forgiver actively attempts to move from negative thoughts, feel- ings, and behaviors toward the transgressor to more positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Consequently, prior models of forgiveness have focused on individual social–cognitive pro- cesses, paying comparatively limited attention to the broader social context 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 relationship between transgressor and victim and the broader context in which that relationship is embedded (Fincham, 2000; McCullough & Hoyt, 2002). When forgiveness occurs in relationships, it most likely serves a purpose that is linked to the nature and functioning of the relationship itself. For example, the operation of forgiveness should 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 serve different psychological needs. Even studies of forgiveness in non- humans (primates in particular) have increasingly made familial relationships, rather than individuals, the unit of analysis (de Waal, 2000). In the present research, we examined the pivotal role of this broader social context in humans by testing whether forgiveness varies across family relationships.

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