Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Date of Defense

8-3-2011

Graduate Advisor

Ann M Steffen, Ph.D.

Committee

John Chibnall

Samuel Marwit

Thomas Meuser

Abstract

Despite recent increased attention to the construct of forgiveness, measures of forgiveness have been limited by inconsistent use of a single operational definition. One measure of forgiveness, the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (EFI), has shown strong psychometric properties in numerous studies and across diverse samples. However, limited research has explored the conceptualization and measurement of the forgiveness process with older adults and caregivers. The current study examined the utility of the EFI within a sample of 118 middle-aged and older female spouses, including a subset of dementia family caregivers (n = 29). Participants completed measures of religious coping, depression, state and trait anger, state and trait anxiety, marital satisfaction, and social desirability. They were also asked to provide a detailed written account of a significant transgression by their husband, and completed the EFI in reference to that specific offense. Transgression descriptions were coded for content by two independent raters, to establish the objective characteristics of transgressions that individuals are considering when responding to the EFI. Caregivers also completed measures assessing current levels of strain as a caregiver and regarding their husbands' cognitive status. Results indicate that caregivers reported more marital distress and less forgiveness as compared to non-caregivers. Forgiveness was negatively correlated to state anger, depression, and state and trait anxiety among the overall sample. Findings of the current study suggest that the EFI has sound psychometric properties when applied to middle-aged and older adult wives in longstanding marriages. The implications of these data for future research on the application of forgiveness to middle-aged and older wives and caregivers are discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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