Forgiveness: A perception and motivation study among married adults, Orathinkal, Vanseenwegen and Burggraeve (2008) explore the manifestation and effects of forgiveness in intimate relationships. The paper begins by stressing recent interest among mental health experts in forgiveness. A discussion of related terms such as reconciliation, excuse and exoneration follows. The focus of the paper is on forgiveness for "interpersonal violations" such as physical attack, infidelity and incest. Research supports that forgiveness leads to marital longevity, closure in episodes of interpersonal violations and helps in relieving stress and self-esteem issues. The study aims to discover perceptions of forgiveness (measured on the Forgiveness Perception and Motivation Checklist) among married adults and whether their perceptions are related to behavior (measured on the Enright Forgiveness Inventory). Differences in the perceptions of forgiveness between first-married (those currently in their first marriage) and remarried (after divorce or separation) adults, and between men and women are compared.
Participants included 787 heterosexual married people in Flanders, Belgium of which 424 were first-married. They were administered the FPMC in Dutch language with responses required to 25 Likert-scale questions. The 60-item Dutch EFI to determine positive and negative effects, behavior and cognition related to forgiveness. A set of questions were included to detect pseudo-forgiveness. The EFI is reliable because it has an internal consistency of 0.90. Snowballing was used for sampling with respondents referring the researchers to other participants. College students helped in getting the questionnaires completed. The results were analyzed by a descriptive analysis and a t-test.
The ratio of completion was 80% for the FPMC and 74% for the EFI. 4 participants were rejected because they scored high on pseudo-forgiveness. The results showed that most participants tend to view forgiveness as a part of marital life, but were divided in whether forgiveness is unconditional. 60% respondents included reconciliation and positive feelings for the other as part of forgiveness. Respondents rejected religion and absence of options as motives for forgiveness. They did not feel it is a sign of weakness or a feminine trait. There was no difference in the positive or negative perception of forgiveness across genders. However, first-married and remarried differed significantly in their positive perceptions of forgiveness. This might be due to negative experiences from previous marriages for remarried. Generally, participants had positive perceptions of forgiveness and were motivated by positive feelings.
The FMPC scale needs empirical testing before use in other studies. A cross-cultural, stratified sample of couples can be chosen and forgiveness in specific instances can be studied. Other demographics should also be accommodated in subsequent research. Positive perceptions of forgiveness help in conflict resolution while negative perceptions tend to restrict forgiving behavior. These findings may be applicable in marriage counseling.
Critique on the Article
The title is fairly specific for the scope and nature of the study. The study attempts to approach a topic that has not been studied in great depth in earlier studies. Therefore, an excessively specific title would be confusing and would not reflect the purpose of the study. The author has successfully avoided using a simple "yes-no" title and has left ample ground for discussion of a variety of ideas and perceptions relating to forgiveness and its related ideas. It also encourages study in other areas of the topic and appeals to a wider audience. Overall, the title is effective because it serves as an introductory analysis of the perceptions and motivations for forgiveness. It is also appropriate for the scope of the study because it identifies the topic and the population segment without going into too many specifics.
The abstract of the study provides a clear idea of the purpose of the study in the first sentence. It also identifies the population segment and discusses the two major findings of the study. However, the abstract does not include a mention of the implications of the findings or areas for further study and research. This fails to give a complete picture about the study.
In the literature review, the researchers give a clear background about the aspects of the topic that have been studied by other researchers such as the concepts of forgiveness, excuse, reconciliation and exoneration. This helps the reader to get a precise understanding of the concept being studied, especially in light of the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. The researchers highlight the importance of the problem area to the fields of mental health and marriage counseling in the literature review. They refer to a number of useful terms but avoid overusing direct quotations from the research. Operational definitions of perceptions of forgiveness and actual forgiveness are provided but a clear conceptual definition of forgiveness is missing. The researchers note a gap in literature where research on forgiveness has only involved university students and not married couples.
In framing the research question, the researchers attempt to pin down the specific area of interest in the study on forgiveness. They identify the goal of understanding how differently first-marrieds and remarrieds perceive forgiveness and the extent to which it influences their behavior towards their spouse. The research design needs to be improved because it relies on researcher-developed instruments that have not been empirically tested. Help from untrained college students may be unacceptable in the research design.
The population and sampling selected for the study is appropriate for a preliminary study on the topic. A population segment ignored by previous researchers was selected, which helps to expand the scope of the topic. The sample size was appropriate considering the logistics involved in reaching out to the population. However, the sample could have been stratified further beyond first-married and remarried, and male and female members. As stated by the researchers, greater insight could have been obtained if the sample were stratified by culture, region, family size, etc. The response rate to the research instruments was high (80% for the FPMC and 74% for the EFI), which shows that the forms were easy to understand and fill out. Therefore, there was no need for making attempts to contact the remaining respondents.
The procedures adopted by the researchers are fairly rudimentary. The sample consisted of first-marrieds and remarried couples. The college students were asked to get the forms signed by a first-married or remarried couple of their choice. This might have resulted in a skewed sample composition. However, around 54% of the respondents were first-marrieds, which make the composition balanced. The respondents were selected using snowballing techniques. This might also have prevented a sample consisting of a diverse set of couples instead of couples known to one another due to similarity in background or other demographic characteristics. The researches have included 5 questions to detect perceptions of pseudo-forgiveness in the respondents. However, no effort has been made to deal with demand characteristics. In fact, the intent of the research was communicated to the respondents by a cover letter accompanying the instrument. Hence, it made no difference if the purpose of the researchers was known to the respondents.
The methods used to collect data from the respondents are appropriate. Some of the instruments were delivered personally to the respondents in sealed envelopes and collected from them by the college students. Others were sent to them externally along with a stamped self-addressed envelope. The instrument was back-translated into Dutch, which ensured that it would be understood by the sample members. The reliability and validity of the EFI has been stated as between 0.67 and 0.91 which is a good measure of temporal stability during test-retest. The empirical validity of the EFI is 0.7 which is favorable. This helps to assess the change in stated behavior of the respondents over time. There is no information in the study about the empirical validity of the FPMC.
The presentation of the results is effective and helps in accurate and clear interpretation of the research findings. The researchers make a point to disclose underlying numbers of cases when expressing percentages of the respondents who completed the survey. However, in other areas of the report, they only mention the percentages without referring to the number. They do, however, mention the group referred to, i.e. respondents, so this does not obstruct clarity in the report. The researchers also clearly mention both large and small statistical differences in their results. In discussing the relationship between forgiveness and FMPC scales, they describe the less than 1% coefficient of correlation for both positive perception and negative perception as "a very small level of relation" and as "a low correlation" (p. 159). Effective use of tables has been made to organize and present the data for easy comprehension. Table 2 (p. 158) presents the mean, standard deviation and percentage frequencies of the responses of the participants. Table 3 (p. 159) also provides mean and standard deviation data for the perception of forgiveness among first-married and remarried couples.
The article being reviewed is not a lengthy article and hence there is no need for presenting a summary of the purpose and results at the beginning of the discussion. However, the researchers do present a…