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Title: Forgiveness in close relationships: The roles of empathy, offense-specific variables, relationship closeness and personality
Authors: Chan, Wai Yin (陳慧賢)
Department: Department of Applied Social Studies
Issue Date: 2011
Course: SS5790 Psychology Research Paper
Programme: Master of Social Sciences in Applied Psychology
Instructor: Dr. Yeung, Dannii Yuen Lan
Subjects: Forgiveness -- China -- Hong Kong.
Interpersonal relations -- China -- Hong Kong.
Citation: Chan, W. Y. (2011). Forgiveness in close relationships: The roles of empathy, offense‐specific variables, relationship closeness and personality (Outstanding Academic Papers by Students (OAPS)). Retrieved from City University of Hong Kong, CityU Institutional Repository.
Abstract: Objectives: The present study examined when people would forgive their close social partners after actual transgressions. The relationships between forgiveness and 4 main conceptual categories including empathy, offense-specific variables (i.e., offense severity, transgressor's intent, and apology), relationship closeness (i.e. pre- and post-offense closeness), and personality (i.e., agreeableness and neuroticism) were tested. This study also explored whether empathy would explain a significant variance of forgiveness beyond other main variables and its buffering effect on the robust negative relationship between offense severity and forgiveness. Methods: A total of 162 Hong Kong adults answered questions about the most impressive experience within the past 5 years in which they were offended by a family member, a romantic partner, or the best friend. Results: As predicted, 4 constructs including empathy, offense severity, transgressor's intent, and post-offense closeness were associated with forgiveness. But no associations were found for forgiveness and other 4 constructs including apology, pre-offense closeness, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Multiple regression analyses confirmed that empathy was the most distinctive predictor of forgiveness even after statistically controlling for other well-established predictors. The results also indicated that the negative association between offense severity and forgiveness was moderated by empathy. For victims with high empathy towards the offenders, the negative relationship between offense severity and forgiveness is smaller than those with low empathy. Conclusion: These findings provided a strong evidence for the robust empathy-forgiveness link and have implications for the empathy-centered intervention in the practice of counseling services to promote forgiveness following the actual transgressions by close social partners.
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