A study conducted by Gambarao in 2002 was conducted "to effect emotional regulation with children," (Knutson 2008:195). Enright's model of forgiveness was found to be incredibly successful in helping children forgive their injurers and move past the harmful injury which could have previous caused them to harbor resentment and affect their adult lives.
However, children are not the only population to have been studied within the context of Enright's forgiveness process model. One of the many empirical studies to use Enright's model was that of Waltman's 2002 study which focused primarily on older adults. Waltman focused on adults who were of middle age or older in order to facilitate real and true forgiveness within adults who were nearing the end of their lives as a way to improve the quality of that remaining existence. This study incorporated forgiveness for a number of assaults which had caused the injured parties to harbor resentment which then affected their daily lives. The forgiveness process model was then successfully used as a method to help make peace with the injurers, who may or may not have been a part of the therapeutic process. Waltman's study showed favorable results in the lives of older adults, who were then able to become greater contributors to the human community with more empathy towards all types of people within that larger communal body.
Another major study actually did focus on married couples who were in the midst of an infidelity. A 2003 study conducted by Knutson focused on married couples who had experienced an act of infidelity which had proved incredibly damaging to the marital relationship. This is very similar to the context of the current body of research, but was very limited in its design. Although it found favorable results within the practice of the forgiveness model as a therapeutic practice, researchers admitted that their sample size was incredibly limited, which may have negative ramifications on the implementation of its findings. According to researchers, the sample population was largely limited to older couples of European descent, thus eliminating a large percentage of married couples who have also experienced the pain and harmful affects of infidelity. The sample size was also very small, leading researchers to believe that a larger and more diverse sample population would have produced stronger results which could have had much more of an impact on therapeutic practices within couple's therapy.
With these studies in mind, it is clear that more research is needed involving a younger and more diverse population of married couples. Research has shown that "These studies offer a starting point for future work to examine forgiveness and rumination variables in a fashion that allows for clear conclusions about their casual ordering and their unique contributions to mental health," (Worthington 2005:358). Thus, it is the aim of this research to provide real results on a younger and more ethnically diverse population which can then be used as a model for a larger therapeutic method for all types of couples, young and old, European and other. According to research more studies are necessary on younger couples, for "As yet, treatment-outcome studies on the use of forgiveness in couple's therapy are still scarce, although the concept of forgiveness is quite prominent in the clinical and theoretical literature," (Worthington 2005:409).
Therefore the population of this research will be of young adults of all races and ethnicities. Couples from ages 18-34 will incorporate the sample body of this research. It is also imperative that this sample boy include a variety of ethnicities and races, in order to provide broader finings that permeate beyond cultural boundaries. Typically, this population can include both students and working professionals who, other than being married are largely unattached. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 58% percent of the population of those 18-34 were married by the year 2000 (Farley & Haaga 2000). However, almost less than half of that population had children within the mix of their family relations. The large lack of children within this age group allows researchers an interesting glimpse into a relationship with les attachments, and therefore less reasons for a couple to stay together after an act of infidelity. With no children present, a couple has that much less of a reason to work through an infidelity. Thus, this age group has less pressure to forgive from external sources, leaving the option for true forgiveness to be a pure decision of the individuals involved in the relationship.
Additionally, this population has a much different view of what constitutes an adulterous act than previous generations. Studies with older populations have focused purely on sexual acts outside the marriage. However, in today's technological world, infidelity can go far beyond sexual intercourse with a party outside of the marital relationship. Modern therapeutic research shows that "The crucial point that two people in a relationship may have different ideas about what constitutes an affair reminds the therapist that this is thorny territory," (Siebler 2007:117). According to consumer surveys, 82% of 18- to 34-year-olds are "comfortable with technology," (Moskalyuk 2004:1). This means that nearly 82% of the intended population of this study are capable of communicating with people outside their marriages with technology that goes far beyond phone communications. With so many new technological ways to interact with others outside of the family home, there are new ways of understanding what adultery is. Infidelity can now be construed as many more behaviors and practices beyond sexual intercourse with an outside party, "Computer sex, telephone sex, and email flirtations are all included within the ambit of adulterous relationships that violate the marital relationship," (Cossman 2006:274). And so, with this information prevailing, it is clear that infidelity for the purpose of this study must go far beyond actual sexual intercourse.
This study will focus on participants between the ages of 18-34 who are currently within a married relationship that has been negatively affected by an adulterous act. These couples must have been married for a period of at least six months prior to the exposure of infidelity in order to participate within the study. This allows researchers the knowledge that the relationship was serious enough to warrant attempts at real forgiveness. This then gives clout to the internal validity of the study as well. If the study included couples who may have entered a marriage too soon or had not been in the marriage for long enough, there may be no need to focus on forgives, for the injured party may not be serious enough to want to forgive their injurer.
There are stages in which the validity and success of forgiveness within this research can be measured. In order to reach success in terms of this research, the therapists involved with the couples need to make comments on the passage of these fundamental stages. The stages will be broken into three categories, with the counselor recording the level of advancement as well as the time period it had taken to reach that stage, which can then be measures mathematically.
These stages are according to previous proven research, with "The first stage of treatment aid[ing] the couple in developing skills to contain and regulate their negative emotions and to discus more effectively with each other the impact that infidelity has had on themselves and their relationship," (Worthington 2005:410). Since this is an individual matter, there can be no constrictive time limits placed on these stages, but rather approval of the counselor involved. Thus, when the counselor decides that the couple has efficiently set boundaries, managed emotions, and expressed appropriate feelings, they have effectively moved beyond the first stage. No all couples will reach this level.
The second stage will be completed when "the partners attempt to understand why the affair happened and examine both current and developmental issues within themselves and in their relationship that may have contributed to the affair," (Worthington 2005:410). Pulling this info out of the injured party is crucial to completing this second stage, as they may have already known some reasons why their partner strayed. With the counselor's approval of the honesty of this progression, they are then able to move forward with treatment and have completed the second measure of the program.
The final stage will be determined by the counselor as the couple's progresses with treatment. This final stage will force the couple "to evaluate the viability of their relationship, its potential for change, and their commitment to work toward change," (Worthington 2005:410). It is this final stage that the couple makes a decision to stay with one another or move on with their separate lives. This is the final step of treatment within this study and will incorporate the final research notes of the counselor involved.
Treatment providers will include PhD students working their hours to reach their degrees. Thus the students will gain valuable…