Benefits of Classroom Forgiveness Education Confirmed by New Groundbreaking Study

The first-ever meta-analysis of classroom Forgiveness Education programs, a study involving nearly 1,500 grade school students in 10 countries, has determined that such programs “effectively decrease anger and increase forgiveness among children and adolescents. In addition, results indicated that forgiveness education interventions have robust effects that remain even after the termination of the program.” 
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Published this month in Child Development1 (Volume 93, Issue 2, March/April 2022), the critique analyzed 20 randomized intervention studies of forgiveness education programs that were implemented during school years 1996 through 2021. These studies spanned demographically diverse geographic areas including North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The research, “A meta‐analysis of forgiveness education interventions’ effects on forgiveness and anger in children and adolescents,” was conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Hannah Rapp and Jiahe Wang Xu (both graduate students in the Dept. of Educational Psychology), and Dr. Robert Enright, educational psychology professor and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI).

Other significant observations and findings in the just-published report include:

  • Children and adolescents inexplicably experience hurt and conflict in their interpersonal relationships and can “benefit from learning more about what forgiveness is and the process of how to forgive.”
  • Forgiveness education interventions “are effective regardless of whether participants have experienced severe or mild offenses or attend schools in economically disadvantaged areas.”
  • Programs of both short and long durations “can lead to significant positive change in anger and forgiveness outcomes.”
  • Children who forgive are more accepted by their peers.
  • Positive results for students “echoed findings from previous reviews of forgiveness interventions with primarily adult populations.”
  • Forgiveness education interventions are “significantly effective” whether they are facilitated by schoolteachers or by researchers.
  • The forgiveness education curriculum and process developed by Dr. Enright2 and the IFI “yielded significant effects.”

Overall, the analysis presents strong evidence that “children and adolescents can benefit from forgiveness education interventions.” Read the full meta-analysis report.
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1 Child Development is a 92-year-old bimonthly scientific journal published by the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). It is a vital source of information not only for researchers and theoreticians, but for a broad range of psychiatrists and psychologists, educators, and social workers in more than 60 countries around the world.

The Forgiveness Education curricula developed by Dr. Enright and the IFI for pre-k through 12th grade students is based on children’s story books. Those stories teach about forgiveness and other moral virtues and equip children with the knowledge of how to forgive a specific person who offends if they choose to do so. Lessons begin by educating participants about the five concepts that underlay forgiveness: inherent worth, kindness, respect, generosity, and agape love. During the program, participants read and discuss several age and culture-appropriate stories that display forgiveness between characters such as in The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and in Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss.

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