An Experimental Study of the Effects of Partners’ Offers of Amends and Expressions of Responsiveness on Forgiveness for Real-life Transgressions in Romantic Relationships
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Research has shown that forgiveness promotes individual psychological well-being as well as positive relationship functioning. Moreover, couples themselves report that forgiving is one of the most important reasons that their relationships stand the test of time (Fenell,1993). However, the partner behaviours that facilitate, or even thwart, forgiveness in romantic relationships have been the subject of limited empirical research. In the current study, I investigated the effects of two sets of partner behaviour—offers of amends and expressions of responsiveness (i.e. understanding, validation, care)—on forgiveness for real-life hurtful events in romantic relationships. Sixty-four couples participated in a lab-based, experimental study in which I manipulated whether the partner who disclosed feelings about an unresolved, hurtful event (“victim”) received a videotaped response from his/her partner in which this partner (“offender”) expressed: 1) responsiveness only, 2) amends only, 3) both responsiveness and amends, or 4) neither responsiveness nor amends (control group). Trained coders provided micro-ratings of offenders’ specific responsive (e.g., perspective-taking) and amends (e.g., apology) behaviour as well as macro-ratings of more global displays of these behaviours (e.g., overall understanding, overall remorse). Victims also completed measures of relationship satisfaction, event severity, perceptions of their partners’ amends, perceptions of their partners’ responsiveness, and forgiveness. The findings suggest that event severity moderates the effectiveness of the general act of offering amends and/or responsiveness in promoting forgiveness. When event severity was high, the experimental manipulation of the presence vs. absence of amends and of responsiveness did not affect forgiveness. However, it did affect forgiveness for less severe events. Specifically, expressions of amends, responsiveness and their combination yielded similarly more forgiveness than no response at all. These effects were iv mediated by the victim’s perceptions of the offender’s responsiveness to his/her experience of the hurtful event. Further, results indicated that the victims’ perceptions of the offenders’ responsiveness could be promoted, or thwarted, by the content of the offenders’ amends. Micro-ratings of offenders’ amends behaviour demonstrated that when event severity is low, more elaborate offers of amends, in particular remorse, increase the victims’ perceptions of partner responsiveness, which in turn, facilitate forgiveness. To the contrary, when event severity is high, offering more elaborate offers of amends has no effect at all in facilitating victims’ perceptions of responsiveness, and expressing more remorse in particular, may backfire. Finally, the associations between coders’ ratings of the offenders’ behaviour with the victims’ perceptions suggested that the victims’ perceptions, especially of responsive behaviour, are perhaps largely self-construed.
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Carolina Pansera (2012). An Experimental Study of the Effects of Partners’ Offers of Amends and Expressions of Responsiveness on Forgiveness for Real-life Transgressions in Romantic Relationships. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/7161