Guilt in Friendship

Guilt is a subjective unpleasant state, implying harm to another person and the
acknowledgement of moral transgressions. Over the last decades, several studies have
focused on guilt in couples, whereas relatively little attention has been devoted to
guilt in friendship relationships. The present study was aimed to fill this gap.
Participants were 151 students (73 males and 78 females) at the Department of
Communication studies of Rome University (Italy). Their age ranged between 18 and
30 years. All participants had been involved in a friendship relationship for at least six
months to 20 years. They were asked to answer a questionnaire during lecture time.
Socio-demographic information were collected first. Next, participants were invited to
describe a situation that was most vivid in their mind and to indicate, on a 10-point
scale the extent to which the guilt was strong. They were also solicited to explain, in a
free format, 1) the reasons why they felt guilty in that specific situation; 2) what they
did or thought after feeling the emotion, 3) in what way the emotional experience had
changed both themselves and the relationship. Two independent judges coded
participants' accounts, reasons for feeling guilty and any reparative behaviors reported
by them. The results obtained highlight not only the episodes of guilt that are typical
of friendship, but also the values and norms that were transgressed and that from the
participants' point of view were important characteristics of the relationship with their
best friends.

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Contributo in atti di convegno
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The International Association for Relationship Research Conference 2010, Herzliya, Israele, 23-26 July
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Rita D'Amico's picture
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