Forgiveness of Interpersonal Offenses in Younger and Older Roman Catholic Women

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Forgiveness involves replacing negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with constructive responses following an interpersonal offense. Although older adults report themselves to be more forgiving than younger adults, it is unclear why. The current study examined forgiveness of specific offenses in two samples of Roman Catholic women. Participants wrote about an interpersonal offense and completed a multi-dimensional measure of forgiveness with regard to the offense. On 5 of 10 dimensions, older women ( n = 26; mean age = 74 years) were significantly more forgiving of specific offenses than were younger women ( n = 37; mean age = 19 years). Religiousness/spirituality and current hurt/anger about the offense partially mediated the associations between age group and forgiveness. The results support models of successful aging, with older women showing greater likelihood of responding to interpersonal conflicts with forgiveness.