Empathy and Forgiveness Among Mozambican Wives

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The relationship between empathy and forgiveness was assessed in a sample of Mozambican wives. A sample of 225 wives was presented with 24 vignettes depicting an affair between a husband and a woman. Vignettes were composed of all combinations of three factors: the length of the marriage, the severity of the affair, and the presence and nature of apologies. Wives were asked to judge the extent to which, in such circumstances, they would be able to regain the ability to empathize with their husband and, later, the degree to which they would feel able to forgive him. Through cluster analysis, qualitatively different positions were found. For 47%, it was never easy either to regain empathy or to forgive. For 8%, it was always easy. For 28%, it depended on the severity of the affair and on the presence of apologies. For the remaining 18%, it also depended on the length of marriage. Overall, in 71% of the cases, positions were similar with regard to both, empathy and forgiveness. Nevertheless, in 29% of the cases, positions differed. Because for most wives empathy was thus very closely associated with forgiveness, the results suggest that empathy-centered psychological therapies can be considered as quite appropriate in the Mozambican context in situations in which women would like to forgive more or less severe transgressions. However, given that for 21% of the women the empathy–forgiveness association appeared to be much weaker, alternative therapies based on practices developed by local women’s associations should also be considered.

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