This 33-year study examined associations between self-control development in adolescence and forgivingness, i.e., the dispositional tendency to forgive others, in middle adulthood.
Participants were 1,350 adults aged 45 years (50.6% female). Self-control was measured yearly from age 12 to 16, while forgivingness was measured at age 45.
Results indicated significant individual differences in level and change of self-control across the adolescent years and an average mean-level increase. Individual differences in level and change in self-control were independently associated with forgivingness in middle adulthood. Individuals who either entered adolescence with higher self-control, and/or increased in self-control during the adolescent years, reported higher scores in forgivingness at age 45 compared to peers. This pattern held even after controlling for gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and conduct problems in adolescence.
The current findings demonstrate that developmental processes in adolescence are important for individual differences in the dispositional tendency to forgive others in adulthood.