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Title: Trait and state attachment security as a foundation for forgiveness in romantic relationships
Author: Hirst, Shannon
ISNI:       0000 0004 7657 3649
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2019
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Forgiveness is a prosocial mechanism that facilitates both intra- and inter-personal wellbeing. Attachment security has been identified as supporting forgiveness through positive representations of self and other. This thesis examined attachment theory as a framework for understanding forgiveness. This was achieved through two overarching research areas: initial examination of the mechanisms between trait insecure attachment dimensions (anxiety and avoidance) and forgiveness of close other, and the potential of state attachment security (via attachment security priming) as a means of supporting forgiveness. One meta-analysis and four empirical studies examined the influence of insecure attachment dimensions on forgiveness of others. Study 1 was a meta-analysis of 26 studies and demonstrated a small-to-moderate negative effect of attachment anxiety and avoidance on forgiveness of others. Study 2 examined the association between insecure attachment dimensions and forgiveness of a hypothetical relationship partner. Attachment anxiety and avoidance both negatively predicted forgiveness, regardless of severity of transgression and presence/ absence of apology. Indirect effects of rumination, empathy, and negative attributions were present for both attachment anxiety and avoidance, but unique indirect effects were also identified. Fear mediated the anxiety-forgiveness association and motivation to sustain the relationship mediating the avoidance-forgiveness association. This study also clarified the factor structure of forgiveness and related post-transgression responses. Study 3 assessed the efficacy of attachment security priming on boosting forgiveness of a hypothetical transgression and clarified the type of fear that mediates the anxiety-forgiveness association (i.e., fear of losing relationship partner). Attachment security priming successfully boosted Positive Forgiveness but did not reduce the negative effects of Revenge, Avoidance, and Grudge Motivations. Study 4 examined the effect of attachment security priming on forgiveness of an experimentally manipulated transgression using real-life romantic couples in the lab. No effect of prime or transgression was identified. Methodological considerations are discussed. Study 5 examined forgiveness of daily transgressions over a 2-week period and assessed the effect of attachment security priming on forgiveness during this time. Security priming was effective in boosting forgiveness and reducing negative post-transgression responses over the 2-week period, but not at a 2-week follow up. Overall, findings support a negative association between insecure attachment dimensions and forgiveness of relationship partners and highlight the unique role of fear and motivation. This thesis also demonstrates the first use of attachment security priming to boost forgiveness. These findings support the use of attachment theory as a framework for examining when and why we forgive.
Supervisor: Hepper, Erica ; Tenenbaum, Harriet Sponsor: University of Surrey
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral