Exploring Relational Reconciliation Processes in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Families


Christian families, Jewish families, Muslim families, relational reconciliation, religious families, transformative processes


Objective: To explore personal and interpersonal processes that encourage relational reconciliation in nonclinical religious families.

Background: Few studies have addressed what reconciliation is and when it is beneficial. Although intergroup reconciliation has been well documented, little research has addressed relational reconciliation in families. We focus on relational reconciliation pertaining to more normative and typical relational hurts and offenses that nearly all families experience, rather than severe offenses that might be best addressed in a clinical setting.

Method: Using systematic qualitative methods, in‐depth interviews from a nonclinical, exemplar sample of 198 religiously, ethnically, and geographically diverse mothers, fathers, and adolescents were coded and analyzed. Research questions focused on what circumstances led to a need for reconciliation, what motivated families to reconcile, how families reconciled, and what benefits families received from reconciling.

Results: Families were reportedly motivated to reconcile (a) because of their religious beliefs, (b) because they could see a “bigger picture” beyond the immediate conflict, and (c) because they felt that they had been recipients of God's love and forgiveness. The process of reconciliation involved (a) praying to God for help (spiritual processes), (b) admitting mistakes and taking responsibility (personal processes), (c) forgiving and being forgiven (relational processes), and (d) working to fix problems and make amends (practical processes).

Conclusion: Consistent with previous research, these processes reportedly fostered self‐healing following relational distance and led to positive relational outcomes.

Implications: When self‐healing does not occur, clinicians, pastoral counselors, and family life educators may play an important role in helping individuals and families develop and incorporate the transformative processes of reconciliation identified in our data.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D., Marks, L. D., & *Barrow, B. H. (2019). Exploring relational reconciliation processes in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families. Family Relations, 68, 517-533.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Family Relations




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor