Does forgiveness mediate the impact of school bullying on adolescent mental health?

  • Estie Janse van Rensburg
  • Jacques Raubenheimer


Objective: The link between both bullying and victimisation and psychopathology has been well established. Forgiveness has been associated with better mental health. However, few studies have examined the relationship between adolescent forgiveness, psychopathology and bullying/ victimisation. This study investigated forgiveness as a mediator of the adverse mental health problems experienced by bullies and victims of bullying.
Method: Participants were 355 Year 10 or Year 11 pupils (age = 14.9 years) from two British secondary schools in 2007, who completed self-administered measures on bullying and victimisation, mental health, forgiveness of self and others, and forgivingness. The mediating influence of forgiveness on the impact of bullying/victimisation on mental health was tested with a structural equation model.
Results: Data from 55.6% of the 639 eligible pupils were analysed. Results confirmed an association between bullying/victimisation, forgiveness and psychopathology. Forgiveness scores were found to play a mediating role between bullying/victimisation and psychopathology.
Conclusions: Victimised adolescents who were better able to forgive themselves were more likely to report lower levels of psychopathology, while bullying adolescents who were unable to forgive others were more likely to report higher levels of psychopathology. This suggests a greater role for forgiveness within future research, intervention and policy on bullying. Forgiveness can form a valuable part of preventative and educational anti-bullying programmes.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1728-0591
print ISSN: 1728-0583