Betrayal characteristics and self-forgiveness : the mediating and moderating roles of social-cognitive variables

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Clinical Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Lee J. Dixon


The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of forgiveness are well understood within the psychological community. The study of self-forgiveness, however, has just recently come to light. Research has shown that the ability to forgive oneself for a wrongdoing is related to improved mental health, such as decreases in anxiety and depression (Maltby, Macaskill, & Day, 2001). However, factors that enhance the likelihood of engaging in self-forgiveness are not yet well known. This study examined the direct relationship between betrayal characteristics (i.e. transgression severity and victim-offender closeness) and self-forgiveness. It analyzed the mediating and moderating role of social-cognitive variables, such as self-empathy, rumination, and attributions. Participants (n=124) were recruited from introductory psychology courses at a mid-size Midwestern Catholic university. They were asked to write a narrative describing an interpersonal transgression that they have committed. Participants then completed scales assessing the degree of self-forgiveness, relational closeness to the person they offended (Inclusion of Other in the Self), subjective severity of the transgression, self-empathy (modified version of Batson's Eight Item Empathy Scale), rumination related to the offense (Intrusiveness Scale for Rumination Inspired by Impact Event Scale), and type of attributions (modified version of the Relationship Attribution Measure). Results indicated that the degree to which participants believed their transgression to have had a sever affect on the self was directly and negatively related to the process of self-forgiveness. This association is also mediated by ruminative thoughts and moderated by negative attributions. Although the victim-offender closeness prior to the transgression was not directly related to self-forgiveness, an association became apparent when moderated by participants' ruminations and attributions. Self-empathy was unrelated to the process of self-forgiveness.


Forgiveness Psychological aspects, Self-evaluation Psychological aspects, Betrayal Psychological aspects, Counseling psychology; families and family life; self-forgiveness; betrayal characteristics; rumination; empathy; attributions

Rights Statement

Copyright 2013, author