I forgive you for taking his lunch money

A recent study publishing in the Journal of Social Issues examines how forgiveness and reconciliation at home lessens the recurrence of bullying among adolescents. Results of a survey of nearly two thousand Bengali youths demonstrate that parental forgiveness and reconciliation promote adaptive shame management and reduce bullying behavior. The study points out that punitive measures such as suspension and expulsion may reinforce bullying tendencies by excluding the child from social support networks, triggering inappropriate modes of shame management.

As illustrated by the authors, school bullies should be held accountable for their actions, but at the same time, they need to be re-integrated into social groups where they feel loved by their significant others. It is important to note that forgiveness and reconciliation ceremonies do not downplay the harm done by saying that we excuse the wrongdoer. Nor do they excuse the denial of shame/guilt over the wrongdoing, nor do they eliminate re-offending. This study offers evidence-based knowledge on school bullying that can be useful to institutionalize restorative justice principles at school, and develop ways of responding to wrongdoings with a balanced focus on the bullies, victims, and the school community. Through using forgiveness and reconciliation, for example, the school authority can create an experience of belonging and accountability for both the bullies and the victims. The idea that people are responsible for their own well-being as well as having responsibilities to help promote the well-being of others creates a culture where people are rewarded for self-regulating and checking themselves before they engage in bullying activities.

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This study is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Social Issues. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Journal of Social Issues, published on behalf of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, brings behavioral and social science theory, empirical evidence, and practice to bear on human and social problems. Each issue of the journal focuses on a single topic - recent issues, for example, have addressed poverty, housing and health; privacy as a social and psychological concern; youth and violence; and the impact of social class on education.

Authors Eliza Ahmed and Valerie Braithwaite are both fellows at the Research School of Social Sciences at Australia National University. Dr. Braithwaite is available for interview and may be contacted.

The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) is an international group of over 3,000 psychologists, allied scientists, students, and others who share a common interest in research on the psychological aspects of important social issues. For more information, please visit www.spssi.org

Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with 665 academic and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and, to date, has published more than 6,000 books, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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