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Factors Predicting Interpersonal Forgiveness: The Relationship Between Forgiveness and Health

24 July 2009


Forgiveness is often defined in the literature as being comprised of two processes. The first involves the release of negative affect or resentment toward the transgressor and the second involves the presence of or an increase in prosocial behavior/feelings toward the transgressor (Lawler-Row & Karremas, Scott, Edlis-Matityahou, & Edwards, 2008). Forgiveness has been demonstrated within the literature to relate to positive physical and psychological health outcomes. This study used a measure of psychological distress to further test the association between forgiveness and health within a community sample, finding a strong negative relationship between levels of psychological distress and state and trait forgiveness.

A variety of factors have been hypothesized to influence both situational and dispositional forgiveness. This study investigated several of these offense-specific variables, including perceived closeness of the victim-transgressor relationship, perceived severity of the offense, presence of apology, frequency of the offense, and level of rumination post-offense. Perceived closeness of the relationship and severity of the offense were found to significantly predict state forgiveness. Only severity of the offense held predictive value for trait forgiveness, and as with the current literature, prediction was stronger for state forgiveness than trait forgiveness.

Several forgiveness interventions exist that are designed for a variety of clinical populations. The results of this study lend support to the consideration of offense-specific variables when referring clients to forgiveness interventions. The findings of this study may be strengthened by further exploration of the individual, social, and spiritual factors that may uniquely predict state and trait forgiveness.


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