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Second, childhood attachment to parental love objects should be expected to influence the degree to which children experience emotional forgiveness. Children who develop insecure attachment styles, which do not facilitate close relationships, are not expected to be heavily invested in experiencing forgiveness. Those with secure attachment styles are likely to value relationships more as they age. They thus try to preserve and restore them by emotionally (and decisionally) forgiving.
Third, from the early months of a child's life, emotion regulation occurs. Even babies at the youngest ages learn to emotionally down regulate negative emotions by self-soothing, calming, and distracting themselves from their frustrations. As children age, their repertoire of emotion-regulation strategies becomes more varied and sophisticated. The repertoire of emotion-regulation strategies that children develop differs across children. Those children who develop, even in their preschool years, an early sense of empathy, sympathy, compassion, and unselfish love for others are expected to be able to experience emotional forgiveness more quickly than are children who develop such capacities later or become impaired in those capacities.
Fourth, coaching from their parents can help children broaden and deepen their emotion-regulation strategies. Through emotion coaching, parents convey their meta-emotional philosophy to children. They directly and indirectly tell and show children what emotions are acceptable to experience and to express. They train children in how to deal with emotion-provoking experiences-notably (for our purposes) transgressions.
Fifth, people encounter stress throughout their lives. Stressors make demands for change. Children appraise the stressors and respond to their appraisals with stress reactions; or they respond to physical stressors, sometimes without appraisal. They try to cope with both situations and their own reactions. Some stress reactions are unpleasant and prompt children to employ problem-focused or emotion-focused coping strategies. Problem-focused coping strategies seek to solve the problem and deal directly with the stressor. Emotion-focused coping strategies seek to manage negative emotions. The development of a repertoire of emotion-focused coping strategies will facilitate or hamper forgiving depending on what types of coping strategies the child practices.
For example, a child who sees God as a hostile authority figure might be less likely to respond with forgiveness to someone who had offended him or her (especially to a parent, caregiver, or other authority figure) than would a child who perceives God to be nurturing and collaborative. Psychologist Kenneth Pargament (McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen, 2000) has identified numerous religious and spiritual coping strategies. These religious and spiritual coping strategies-such as praying, meditating, and making positive attributions to God-can affect the capacity of the child to forgive. Prayer as a coping strategy might be more available to older children than to younger children, which demonstrates development as well. Sixth, the religious and spiritual environment in the home will likely also affect the child's development of the experience of emotional forgiveness. Forgiveness (decisional or emotional), in response to a transgression, is valued by every major religion. It is generally considered to be the centerpiece of the Christian religion. Some religions firmly advocate decisional forgiveness and emphasize controlling one's negative behavior. Research scientists have found this to be most characteristic of Judaism and Islam. Other religions (notably Christianity) advocate emotional forgiveness in addition to decisional forgiveness. Buddhism promotes compassion and detachment from vengefulness, thus promoting emotional forgiveness (though most forms of Buddhism do not use the word forgiveness).
Religion and spirituality have been found to be correlated with forgiveness in adults. Membership in a religious denomination, which involves a belief system that values forgiveness more or less strongly, will determine some underlying cognitive, emotional, and behavioral structures of parents, which they transmit to and teach their children. Spirituality, the personal intensity with which parents adhere to their belief system involving the sacred, will affect the ways and frequency that children are exposed to demonstrations of forgiveness-decisional and emotional-as well as the importance they give it. Forgiveness has been shown to be related to religion in a variety of studies. Forgiveness has not yet been thoroughly investigated in terms of its relationship to spirituality.
Altogether then, we can see that children probably learn to grant forgiveness largely depending on the parents' belief system, their practice of encouraging and rewarding the child's expression of decisional forgiveness after being transgressed against, and their modeling of decisional forgiveness. However, the development of the experiencing of emotional forgiveness (in contrast to granting decisional forgiveness) is substantially less due to external demands from parents. Instead, it is highly related to the climate within the parent-child relationship, which affects the child's temperament, emotion-regulation capability, parental meta-emotional philosophy, cognitive development of the ability to reason about justice and forgiveness, repertoire of ways of coping with stress, and religious and spiritual environment.