Can forgiving your parents help reduce the effects of bad parenting?

Backed by Davide Chicco
Raised of $550 Goal
Ended on 1/01/21
Campaign Ended
  • $45
  • 9%
  • Finished
    on 1/01/21

About This Project

Harsh parenting casts a long shadow on developing children and may cause psychopathology across the lifespan[1]. Forgiveness may help adults who experienced this childhood adversity reduce risk for aggression, depression, anxiety, or other problematic symptoms, as earlier studies have shown that forgiveness is associated with improved mental health and well-being [2].

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What is the context of this research?

Without a doubt, negative parenting behaviors can put children at risk. Because the parent-child relationship might be the most enduring and emotionally close relationship that a person has [3], without healing childhood wounds caused by parents, emotional pain and suffering can negatively affect an adult's overall wellbeing.
Forgiveness might protect children in disadvantaged situations against negative parental behaviors [4]. What’s more, forgiveness might influence an individual’s capacity to withstand aversive emotional states (distress tolerance ability)[5]. However, there is little research about the influences of forgiveness in a specific family context. This study will fill in the gap of literature and contribute to the theory of forgiveness in parent-child relationships.

What is the significance of this project?

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health[6], 51.5 million Americans aged 18 or older had a mental illness. This study will focus on the most common mental issues, such as depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, and other related symptoms, and may help to improve understanding of broad liabilities to psychopathology. Furthermore, by investigating the effects of different dimensions of parenting behaviors on adult children's distress tolerance ability, and the beneficial effects of forgiveness, this study will not only lead to more efficient and effective intervention approaches that reduce the prevalence of a wide range of psychiatric disorders among adults, but also provide insights into prevention programs for child mental illness.

What are the goals of the project?

The primary purpose of this study is to study whether forgiveness toward parents could mitigate the effects of negative parenting on adult offspring's distress tolerance ability and mental illness symptoms through self-report measures. We will distribute an online survey to get data from around 900 adults who are currently living in the US. We will ask about people’s perceived parenting behaviors when they were young, the levels of forgiveness toward their parents, their distress tolerance ability, and their mental health state. With the data, we will run statistical analyses to examine the interactive effect between parenting and forgiveness on adult children’s distress tolerance and mental health. Hopefully, the results could be published in a peer-reviewed journal.


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The current study will be an online survey, and after survey, 1 out of 35 participants will receive a $20 e-gift card, which will be sent to their email accounts by the research team. Thus, participant payment of $500 may cover at least 875 participants. Because of the nature of the survey, large sample size would help increase study's validity and help generalize results to a broader population.

Thank you in advance for your kind support!

Endorsed by

This is an important research study which could prove to be a strong protection for parents and their children. Parents who have unresolved resentments with their own parents sometimes can displace their discontent onto their own children. The children certainly do not deserve this. This study can enhance our learning on how adults forgiving their own parents can protect the next generation from the effects of excessive anger.

Project Timeline

Advertisements to recruit participants will be post in the middle of November. Data analysis will be completed by March, 2021. Results could be shared in June, and may get published in the future.

Nov 12, 2020

Start recruiting participants

Dec 02, 2020

Project Launched

Feb 28, 2021

Complete data collection

Mar 01, 2021

Start data analysis

Mar 20, 2021

Complete data analysis

Meet the Team

Qi Zhang
Qi Zhang
PhD student


University of Wisconsin, Madison
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Qi Zhang

Hi, my name is Qi Zhang, a third year PhD student in the Human Development area fo the Educational Psychology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research interests are the associations between parenting behaviors and children's mental health.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

University of Wisconsin-Madison IRB study number: 2020-1273

Principal Investigator: Robert Enright


[1] J. P. Shonkoff et al., “The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress,” Pediatrics, vol. 129, no. 1, pp. e232–e246, 2012.

[2] L. Toussaint and P. Friedman, “Forgiveness, gratitude, and well-being: The mediating role of affect and beliefs,” J. Happiness Stud., vol. 10, no. 6, p. 635, 2009.

[3] T. D. Golish, “Changes in closeness between adult children and their parents: A turning point analysis,” Commun. Reports, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 79–97, 2000.

[4] F. G. Paleari, C. Regalia, and F. D. Fincham, “Adolescents’ willingness to forgive their parents: An empirical model,” Parent. Sci. Pract., vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 155–174, 2003.

[5] N. L. Matheny, H. L. Smith, B. J. Summers, K. A. McDermott, R. J. Macatee, and J. R. Cougle, “The Role of Distress Tolerance in Multiple Facets of Hostility and Willingness to Forgive,” Cognit. Ther. Res., vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 170–177, 2017.

[6] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55)," 2020. [Online]. Available:

Project Backers

  • 2Backers
  • 9%Funded
  • $45Total Donations
  • $22.50Average Donation
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