To forgive or not to forgive: A longitudinal analysis of the antecedents and consequences of forgiveness
Kearns-Bodkin, Jill Noreen
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The goals of the current investigation were twofold. One goal was to provide insight into the factors that either facilitate or impede forgiveness by examining victims' personal beliefs and attitudes about forgiveness in the context of real-life transgressions. A second goal was to gain a better understanding of the relationship between forgiveness and psychological well-being over time. In order to achieve these goals, a two-phase investigation was conducted. First, an elicitation study was conducted to determine the most salient behavioral, normative, and control beliefs with regard to forgiving. These beliefs were then used to develop a belief-based instrument that was used in Study 2. Study 2 examined longitudinally the personal beliefs and attitudes of victims with respect to their decisions to forgive and used this information to predict intentions to forgive and self-reported forgiveness in the context of a real-life transgression. In addition, Study 2 examined the prospective relations between forgiveness and well-being over the five week period immediately following the transgression. Results of structural equation analyses indicated that intentions to forgive were accurately predicted from attitudes, subjective norms, and perceptions of behavioral control and self-efficacy. Moreover, intentions to forgive predicted initial levels of forgiveness and, to a lesser extent, changes in forgiveness over time. Finally, limited evidence was found to support the assumption that forgiveness directly promotes improved psychological well-being.