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Do offender and victim typical conflict styles affect forgiveness?

Marisa Donnoli (School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia)
Eleanor H. Wertheim (School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 10 February 2012



The purpose of this paper is to examine whether victim and offender conflict management styles (yielding and forcing) predict forgiveness following an interpersonal transgression and apology. Perceived offender remorse, expectation of reoffending, and transgression severity along with trait empathy were also examined as potential mediators of conflict style effects and as direct predictors of forgiveness.


In total, 112 Australian adults completed a questionnaire including a written scenario describing a hypothetical transgression perpetrated either by a forcing‐ or yielding‐prone offender.


Offender conflict style was significantly related to forgiveness, with the yielding‐offender compared to forcing‐offender scenario resulting in higher forgiveness, an effect fully mediated by perceived offender remorse. Additionally, perceived offender remorse, transgression severity and likelihood of reoffending, and participant empathic concern added to predictions of forgiveness.

Research limitations/implications

This paper highlights how an offender's conflict style may lead to perceptions by an injured party that the offender is less remorseful following a specific offence and apology. Individuals with a history of dominating, competitiveness and self serving may need to modify their conflict resolution methods, or explicitly demonstrate sincere remorse, in order to elicit forgiveness from an injured party following interpersonal transgressions.


This study is the first, to the authors' knowledge, to examine how an offender's tendency to yield or force during conflict affects an injured party's decision to forgive following a transgression and apology and to provide an explanation of this relationship. Findings are potentially useful to clinicians, mediators, negotiators and managers in facilitating better interpersonal or workplace relationships.



Donnoli, M. and Wertheim, E.H. (2012), "Do offender and victim typical conflict styles affect forgiveness?", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 57-76.



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