Forgiveness Reduces Anger in a School Bullying Context.J Interpers Violence. 2017 06; 32(11):1642-1657.JI
Forgiveness has been shown to be a helpful strategy for victims of many different forms of abuse and trauma. It has also been theoretically linked to positive outcomes for victims of bullying. However, it has never been experimentally manipulated in a school bullying context. This research investigates an experimental manipulation providing children with response advice following a bullying incident. Children read hypothetical physical and verbal bullying scenarios, followed by advice from a friend to either respond with forgiveness, avoidance, or revenge, in a within-subjects repeated measures design. One hundred eighty-four children aged 11 to 15 from private schools in Sydney participated in this study. Results indicated that advice to forgive the perpetrator led to significantly less anger than advice to either avoid or exact revenge. Avoidance was the most likely advice to be followed by students and the most likely to result in ignoring the bullying and developing empathy for their abuser. However, it also resulted in interpretations of the bullying as being more serious. Forgiveness is suggested as an effective coping response for ameliorating the affective aggressive states of victimized youth, with further exploration needed regarding the interplay between the avoidance and forgiveness processes.