The current study examined forgiveness within the parent-adolescent relationship. Theoretical foundations and definitions of forgiveness were examined, after which a relational approach to forgiveness was explored. The direct influences of the quality of mother- and father-child relationships (parent and observed reports) and modeled marital forgiveness on early adolescents' forgiveness toward both mothers and fathers (child report) were examined; the mediating roles of parent forgiveness of child and adolescent social-cognitive skills (empathy and emotional regulation) were also analyzed. Mother, father, and child self-reported questionnaires and in-home observational data were taken from Time 1 and Time 3 (two years later) of the Flourishing Families Project and included reports from 334 two-parent families with an early adolescent child (M age of child at Time 1 = 11.24). Structural equation modeling was utilized to examine relationships between the variables. Mother- and father-child relational variables (both parent self-reports and observed reports at Time 1) were found to be significantly related to mother and father forgiveness of the adolescent child two years later. Interestingly, only mother forgiveness of the child was significantly related to adolescent forgiveness of the mother. Further, father forgiveness of mother (spouse report at Time 1) was directly related to adolescent forgiveness of the father. In addition, direct significant paths from parent-child relational variables to adolescent forgiveness were from the mother's report of connectedness with the child as well as observed reports of father-child connectedness. Significant indirect paths were also found: Observations of warmth within the mother-child dyad influenced adolescent forgiveness toward parents via empathy, while father's report of connectedness influenced adolescent forgiveness via emotional regulation. Finally, empathy and emotional regulation were the most salient direct precursors of adolescent forgiveness of parents. The relevance of modeling for forgiveness research, unique contributions of mothers and fathers, differences by reporter, developmental aspects of forgiveness in adolescence, and the importance of studying forgiveness within the parent-child relationship were discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


Document Type





forgiveness, adolescence, parenting, relationships