Forgiveness, Ego-Integrity, and Depressive Symptoms in Community-Dwelling and Residential Elderly Adults

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Abstract

Objectives:

This study aimed first, to investigate the relation between forgivingness and depressive symptoms in elderly individuals and second, to explore whether the developmental task of integrity/despair is a possible underlying process in this relation. Both aims were studied in a sample of community-dwelling elderly individuals as well as in a sample of residential elderly individuals.

Methods:

Community-dwelling elderly individuals ( n = 280, M = 75.98 years) and residential elderly individuals ( n = 205, M = 83.20 years) in Belgium filled out questionnaires on forgivingness, depressive symptoms, and the developmental task of integrity/despair. Structural equation modeling was used to test the mediational role of integrity/despair in the relation between forgivingness and depression in both samples. Furthermore, multigroup analyses tested the convergence of the mediational models in the community-dwelling elderly individuals and the residential elderly individuals.

Results:

Forgivingness and depression were negatively associated in both residential elderly individuals and community-dwelling elderly individuals. The developmental task of finding integrity and avoiding despair showed to be a significant mediator in this relationship.

Discussion:

Framed within a life-span perspective, we showed that the developmental task of finding a balance between integrity and despair is an important intrapersonal mechanism through which forgivingness is related with depressed feelings for residential as well as community-dwelling elderly individuals.

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