2003 IG Recipients

Testing a Model of the Role of Forgiveness in the Social Competence of Young Children
 
Beverly J. Wilson
Project Director
Associate Professor of Graduate Psychology
Seattle Pacific University
 
Susanne Denham
Professor of Psychology
George Mason University
Stephanie Pickering
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student
Department of Graduate Psychology
Seattle Pacific University
 
Project Abstract:
The proposed project involves a collaborative research project between faculty at Seattle Pacific University and George Mason University. The project will investigate factors that facilitate children’s ability to form supportive relationship with peers. Children who have problems making friends are at risk for continuing problems throughout development. An important aspect of children’s social competence involves their behavioral and emotional responses during challenging interactions with peers. Specifically the proposed study examines children’s tendency to respond to these situations with forgiveness and prosocial behavior versus anger and revenge. Anger and revenge-oriented responses tend to lead to rejection by peers, whereas more prosocial responses facilitate the development of supportive peer relationships. This area of research is also important for understanding interpersonal aggression because many acts of violence appear to be motivated by anger and revenge. The current study also seeks to understand factors that influence children’s tendency to seek revenge or forgive others such as individual differences in the child and experiences in the family. Very little is currently known about forgiveness in young children; most of the previous research in this area has been completed with adults or adolescents. We plan to investigate the relations between children’s anger/revenge, prosocial behavior, forgiveness and their social competence through the use of multiple reporters and observations in the parent/child setting.
 
Assessments include individual interviews of children’s:
a) tendency to forgive peers when they have been harmed
b) processing of social information including revenge versus prosocial solutions to social problems
c) emotion regulation skills
d) empathic concern for others
e) general verbal skills.
 
Children will also complete an assessment of their attention skills and two semi-structured interactions with their parents.
 
Parent/child interactions include:
a) a physical game designed to elicit positive and negative emotions and
b) a discussion of recent events where the parent and child have harmed each other and how they dealt with these situations.
 
These tasks provide opportunities for observing how families deal with interpersonal events that elicit emotions and the degree to which children and their parents express empathy and forgiveness toward each other. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop and test a model of forgiveness in children including the role of individual and familial factors. This information should prove useful for designing more effective interventions for children who have social and conduct problems.
 
Virtue in Culture: A Hermeneutic Perspective
 
Kaye Cook
Project Director
Professor of Psychology
Gordon College
 
Oliver Lindhiem
Associate Project Director
Anchorage House
Beverly, MA
 
Peter Hill
Professor of Psychology
Biola University
 
Steven Sandage
Associate Professor, Marriage & Family Therapy
Bethel Theological Seminary
 
Brad Strawn
Associate Professor, Psychology
Point Loma Nazarene University
 
Robert Roberts
Professor of Ethics
Baylor University, Consultant
 
Project Abstract:
Believing that hermeneutic psychology—with its emphasis on context, the dynamic and interrelated nature of behavior, everyday morality, narrative, and humans as self-interpreting beings—provides the best paradigm for exploring virtues, we plan to interview religious leaders from several cultures, asking them to identify exemplars of virtue within their culture and to talk about the virtues. We then plan to interview the individuals they identify as virtuous. We believe that, by studying the similarities and differences between people’s understandings of the virtues in different cultural and religious contexts, we can contribute to theorizing about the nature of the virtues.
 
The research will consist of two stages. In the first stage, we will interview religious leaders from four populations, the first of which is Christian American non-immigrants, interviewed by two team members in two different parts of the country. In addition, we will interview first-generation Hmong immigrants (who historically are animist), first-generation Sudanese immigrants (families, not the so-called "lost boys") who are often predominantly Muslim if they are from the North and from African traditional religions if from the South, and first-generation Cambodian immigrants (who are predominantly Buddhist). These populations are selected for convenience and because we expect to find differences in virtues among animists, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian groups. The interviews will have several components: (1) We will ask religious leaders to name and describe important qualities for a virtuous person to have. (2) We will give them paragraph summaries of virtues and ask which they prefer and why. (3) We will ask them to name virtuous people. The second stage of the research process will consist of interviewing the virtuous people named by the religious leaders, asking such questions as what their goals are, whether they are religious, and what experiences have influenced their goals.
 
The project will result in several outcomes: a grant proposal for added funding submitted by the end of spring 2003; a theoretical paper about virtue from a hermeneutic perspective submitted b the end of summer 2004; substantial progress on data collection; and a symposium proposal or paper presentation proposal to be submitted to the American Psychological Association. In developing the project, particularly since this group of faculty has never worked together, we will also need to convene several team meetings.
 
We expect to find that the specific virtues named in different contexts may be similar but that the way in which the virtues are understood and organized differs by cultural and/or religious context. The hermeneutic paradigm provides a powerful way of describing this difference.