Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Altmaier, Elizabeth M

Second Advisor

Ali, Saba R

First Committee Member

Liu, William M

Second Committee Member

Ansley, Timothy

Third Committee Member

Saunders, Jodi


Significant interpersonal offenses have considerable consequences for the victim, and these sequelae can be both negative and positive. Spiritual transformation and forgiveness are two processes that may follow a significant interpersonal offense. Spiritual transformation, which includes both spiritual gain and spiritual decline, is an important experience for many individuals following a highly stressful event. Likewise, forgiveness is one way that individuals may cope with the negative effects of being the victim of an interpersonal offense. Both spiritual transformation and forgiveness are related to physical and mental health. Given the prevalence of interpersonal offenses, the mental health link, and the personal importance of religion and spirituality to many individuals, it is imperative to understand these processes. However, the extant literature offers very little about the relationship between spiritual transformation and forgiveness.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of forgiveness in experiencing spiritual transformation following significant interpersonal offenses. Participants were 146 individuals that had been "significantly wronged" by another person. Participants provided information on demographic variables, religious and spiritual importance, event-related distress, forgiveness, and spiritual transformation. Descriptive data are presented as well as correlates of spiritual transformation. Results showed that spiritual growth was positively related to religious and spiritual importance but not forgiveness variables. Event-related distress and avoidance, one component of unforgiveness, were positively related to spiritual decline. Regression analyses revealed that forgiveness did not uniquely account for a significant amount of the variance in spiritual growth after controlling for demographic variables, religious and spiritual importance, and event-related distress. Rather, religious and spiritual importance accounted for a significant amount of variance in spiritual growth. Forgiveness uniquely predicted spiritual decline after accounting for demographic variables, religious and spiritual importance, and event-related distress. This study suggests a complex relationship between spiritual transformation and forgiveness. Results are discussed within the context of implications for clinicians and researchers alike.


Forgiveness, Religion, Spirituality, Spiritual transformation


viii, 102 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 76-88).


Copyright 2011 Jessica Marie Schultz