Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Don Davis

Second Advisor

Joel Meyers

Third Advisor

Ken Rice

Fourth Advisor

Stacey McElroy-Heltzel


Forgiveness and religion/spirituality have been studied together throughout the years. Most studies have claimed that religious/spiritual beliefs and values promote forgiveness and increase psychological well-being. However, reviews of the literature and a meta-analysis have found that these claims and results are tenuous. In Chapter 1, a narrative review of the literature on forgiveness and religion/spirituality was conducted. In the current review, I outline how well the field has answered lingering questions in the past several years. Weaknesses within the field, such as the over-reliance on cross-sectional study designs and the lack of programmatic work, are noted. The current state of the literature and possible new theories and directions for the field are also discussed. In Chapter 2, the present study proposes to examine the relationship between a more contextual religious construct, religious pressure to forgive, and decisional and emotional forgiveness over time, and its influence on psychological well-being over time. The critiques and arguments made by experts, as well as another line of thinking which has suggested that religion may not necessarily have a positive influence on forgiveness, are taken into consideration. Longitudinal data were gathered from participants who identified as being religious/spiritual, were currently in a romantic relationship and experienced a recent, hurtful offense by their partner. These individuals were surveyed over the course of 4 weeks to track their levels of forgiveness and relationship quality with their partners. Results suggested that initial decision to forgive was positively associated with more initial emotional forgiveness and generally more forgiveness over time. Also, social pressure was found to have a positive effect on initial levels of forgiveness. However, religious pressure to forgive did not have effects on forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness and social pressure also had positive effects on initial relationship quality, but there were no effects on change over time (slope). These results start raising the question on the differences between similar, yet different R/S constructs and pushes toward a better understanding of the relationship between forgiveness and R/S.


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