Self-control in adolescence predicts propensity to forgive others in adulthood, study shows

People with greater self-control during adolescence tend to be more forgiving as adults, according to new research published in the Journal of Personality.

“I am interested in the predictive power of personality change. Research has consistently shown that personality traits such as conscientiousness or self-control of traits predict important life outcomes, including education, work and relationship success, well-being, health and longevity,” explained study author Mathias Allemand, an assistant professor at the University of Zurich.

“In addition, there is mounting empirical evidence that personality traits can change and change throughout the lifespan, and that change varies from person to person. Therefore, it is exciting to examine whether changes in personality predict important life outcomes beyond the level of personality traits.” I am also interested in the antecedents of adult forgiveness.”

The propensity or willingness to forgive others, a trait-like trait, is an important construct in the context of coexistence in social relationships and in society because it contributes to the maintenance of important relationships and is associated with individual and social well-being. . We already know from cross-cutting work that greater self-control is associated with greater forgiveness. But until now it has never been investigated whether change in self-control is associated with long-term forgiveness.”

For their study, Allemand and his colleagues examined data from 1,350 participants from the German LifE-Study.

Self-monitoring was assessed five times during adolescence: at age 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. “Some adolescents started out with low self-control scores and then showed an increase. For others, self-control was higher in early adolescence and continued to increase as childhood progressed. Finally, others changed little or even showed a decrease in self-control,” Allemand noted.

When the participants were 45 years old, they completed a follow-up study with a measure of forgiveness.

The researchers found that self-control in adolescence was positively related to the tendency to forgive others in middle age. In other words, participants who do not agree with with statements such as “I feel like I’m quite weak-willed” and “I often give up at the first sign of difficulty” in adolescence, were more likely to have agree with statements like “I tend to get over it quickly when someone hurts my feelings” and “When people wrong me, my approach is just to forgive and forget” at age 45.

“We found that changes in self-control during adolescence are important for the propensity or willingness to forgive others in middle age,” Allemand told PsyPost. “Higher self-control in early adolescence and increase during adolescence were associated with a higher willingness to forgive others. At the same time, lower scores and reduced self-control were associated with a lower willingness to forgive.”

The researchers controlled for factors such as gender, socioeconomic status, and behavioral problems in adolescence. But the study, like all other studies, has some limitations.

“Since adolescence self-control and middle-age forgiveness were assessed using self-reports alone, future research using a multimethod approach, such as observational reports of self-control and behavioral observation of the tendency to forgive others, is needed,” explains Allemand. .

“Another limitation of our study was that forgiveness was only assessed in middle age, but not in earlier periods of life. That is, we have no information on the extent to which differences in forgiveness were already present in adolescence and how they develop during adolescence. But because of the study’s unique longitudinal design, spanning more than 30 years, we can’t just quickly do a follow-up study with such a long time interval and even more assessments to replicate the results.”

“However, the fundamental question of whether changes in personality can predict significant outcomes above the level remains relevant for future research,” Allemand continued. “While adolescence is an important developmental window to examine developmental processes that may affect adulthood, it would also be important to study the long-term effects of developmental processes in other periods of life: how do personality changes in middle adulthood contribute to parenting success? What are the developmental antecedents of active and healthy aging?”

The study, “Self-Control in Adolescence Predicts Forgivingness in Middle Adulthood,” was authored by Mathias Allemand, Andrea E. Grünenfelder-Steiger, Helmut A. Fend, and Patrick L. Hill.

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