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The influence of friendship quality and commitment on the empathy -forgiveness relationship in children and adolescents

Susan M Goss, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Research investigating forgiveness has continued to flourish as an area of psychological inquiry since the early 1990s. However, the investigation of the correlates of forgiveness in children and adolescents has progressed at a much slower pace. The paucity of forgiveness research involving child and adolescent friendships has resulted in a gap in knowledge regarding the factors that are important to forgiveness and how these factors interact to make forgiveness more or less likely during these developmental periods. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between dispositional forgiveness, friendship factors (quality and commitment), transgression factors (perceived transgressor remorse and perceived transgression severity), empathy, and forgiveness following a transgression. Forgiveness research in adults indicates that these variables are important factors in the forgiveness process. Three hundred and twenty-four participants from 4th, 7 th, and 9th grade, and 18 to 21-year-old college students (both males and females) completed a set of surveys. Study hypotheses regarding the relationships between these variables and forgiveness were for the most part supported. Age differences were found for dispositional forgiveness (dispositional forgiveness showed a negative, linear trend across the age groups); age and gender differences were found in forgiveness following the transgression (females and younger participants were more forgiving than males and older participants). Age differences were also found in perceived transgressor remorse in response to a vignette manipulation used in the study. Fourth grade participants were significantly influenced by an apology from their friend. For the older age groups, an apology did not increase perceived remorse when regret was also displayed. Perceived transgression severity was not a significant influence on forgiveness in the 4th, 7th, and 9 th grade groups, but was in college students. Comparisons of a forgiveness model between the college-age group and a combined group of the 4th , 7th, and 9th grade participants indicated a more complex relationship between the variables under study for the college group. Findings for the college group were consistent with McCullough, Worthington, and Rachal's (1997) model of a mediated relationship between apology and forgiveness by empathy. This mediated relationship was not found in the best-fitting model for the combined 4th, 7th, and 9th grade group. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Goss, Susan M, "The influence of friendship quality and commitment on the empathy -forgiveness relationship in children and adolescents" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3225993.