Forgiving the September 11th terrorists: Associations with coping, psychological distress, and religiosity

Galena Kline Rhoades, Daniel N. McIntosh, Martha E. Wadsworth, Jarl A. Ahlkvist, Rebecca A. Burwell, Gretchen R. Gudmundsen, Tali Raviv, Jacqueline G. Rea

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Two studies examined how non-interpersonal forgiveness (when there is no social relationship between the transgressor and forgiver) related to coping and involuntary responses to stress, psychological distress, and religiosity. Three to six weeks after September 11th, 2001, forgiveness had non-linear associations with other responses to the terrorist attacks. Among college students (N=488), those who were trying or had forgiven (pro-forgiveness) the terrorists reported less involuntary engagement, more primary and secondary control coping, and more meaning finding than those who were unsure about forgiveness (ambivalent) and those who did not believe the perpetrators should be forgiven (anti-forgiveness). Ambivalent students reported the most distress, even after controlling for religion. Anti-forgiveness students reported less religiosity than ambivalent and pro-forgiveness students. Most findings were consistent among middle schoolers (N=154), particularly regarding psychological distress and responses to stress. Also, forgiveness of strangers for acts against one's community functioned separately from religion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-128
Number of pages20
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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