An investigation into the components of the construct of forgiveness
The last decade has witnessed a growing interest in theoretical and empirical studies into the construct of forgiveness. While research interest has focused on the application of forgiveness to therapy and counselling, the moral and ethical implications of forgiveness have been debated in philosophy and psychotherapy. However, there has been less interest in making a clear distinction between the content of forgiveness and the process of forgiving. This thesis explored the content, that is, a person’s understanding or cognitive representation of the construct in the role of forgiver and forgiven. Finally, in the literature forgiveness is viewed as either a undimensional or a multidimensional construct. Research into the content of the construct would clarify the issue of dimensionality. A series of studies using an undergraduate population was conducted to establish the components of forgiveness in the forgiver and forgiven modes. Seven components were identified (Healing, Condoning, Relationships, Religious, Legal, New Beginning, and Guilt Reduction) and confirmed by factor analysis. This was a robust structure; gender, religiosity, willingness to forgive, and severity of transgression had a minimal influence. A cross cultural study confirmed the same seven factor structure in both modes but indicated differences in variable loadings especially for the Condoning and Legal components. The final study showed that the profiles of the components were different across scenarios, indicating a multidimensional construct and that the type of forgiveness situation i.e., type of transgression and type of relationship, had a specific effect on responses to focus statements measuring the components. The results show it is important to separate the content of forgiveness from the process of forgiveness in order to identify the effect of variables on an understanding of the construct.