Age Moderates the Mediational Role of Empathy in the Association Between Gender and Forgiveness
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Researchers have suggested that empathy may serve to explain, at least in part, the relationship between gender and forgiveness. Some findings in the literature have supported this claim, while other studies have not. Accounting for the variable of age might help to explain these inconsistencies, as age has been found to influence the expression of empathy across gender. As such, in the present study we examined whether age might exert a conditional indirect effect on the relationship between gender and forgiveness as mediated by empathy. Participants were recruited from the community (N = 62) and on a college campus (N = 94). Within the community sample the average age was 74.8, while on the college campus the average age was 20.7. Participants were given a survey packet that included the Heartland Forgiveness Scale and the Empathy Quotient Scale, among other instruments. A moderated-mediational analysis showed that while gender was related to empathy and empathy was associated with forgiveness, empathy served as a significant mediator only for those younger than 62 years of age. This finding suggests that empathy serves as an important mediator in the relationship between gender and forgiveness for adults aged 61 and younger, because younger women are more likely to respond empathetically to a transgressor as compared to younger men. Older women also tend to be more forgiving than older men, but in the present study empathy was not as important of a factor in explaining this relationship for individuals 62 years and older. These findings help to address the inconsistencies in the literature with regard to the relationships among gender, age, empathy, and forgiveness.
KeywordsGender Forgiveness Empathy Mediation Moderation Conditional indirect effect
The authors would like to thank the staff and residents of Bishop Gadsden for their assistance with this project, as well as Dr. James Hittner for his editorial comments.
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