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Examining the Longitudinal Associations Between Repeated Narration of Recent Transgressions Within Individuals’ Romantic Relationships and Character Growth in Empathy, Humility, and Compassion

Laura E. R. Blackie, Kate C. McLean
Published: 7 July 2021

Abstract: This prospective longitudinal study examined whether repeated written narration of relational transgressions was associated with increases in empathy, humility, and compassion over 1 year. Although engagement in reflective and meaning-making processing styles has been theorized to facilitate adversarial growth existing research has been limited by methodological issues and has yet to examine whether this mechanism is associated with character trait changes over time. Participants provided ratings of trait empathy, humility, and compassion in 5 waves at 3-month intervals. In Wave 2, participants provided a written narrative describing a recent relational transgression against their romantic partner. Participants then engaged in repeated narration of recent romantic transgressions in Waves 3 through 5. The narratives were coded for redemption, positive self-event connections, and degree of personal responsibility taken. Linear growth curve models were used to examine the extent to which these narrative themes were associated with character growth. Overall, there was little consistent and robust evidence across models that narration was associated with changes in empathy, humility, and compassion. The implications for research into adversarial growth are discussed in reference to the appropriateness of operationalizing adversarial growth as character growth and the extent to which relational transgressions can facilitate adversarial growth.
Keywords: adversarial growth / narration / transgressions / autobiographical reasoning / romantic relationships

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