2013. Vol.4, No.8, 622-628
Published Online August 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.48089
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Religious Practice and Attitudes towards Offenders
Lucas Marcelo Rodriguez1,2, José Eduardo Moreno1,2
1“Teresa de Ávila” Faculty, Catholic University of Argentina, Paraná, Argentina
2Mathematical and Experimental Psychology Interdisciplinary Research Center, National Research Council,
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Received May 18th, 2013; revised June 28th, 2013; accepted July 9th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Lucas Marcelo Rodriguez, José Eduardo Moreno. This is an open access article distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction
in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This ex post facto study aims to investigate the influence of religious practice on the types of reaction to
situations of offence. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to evaluate the relation-
ship between religious practice and the attitudes towards offenders. The study was carried out with ado-
lescents and young people of both sexes. The sample comprised 673 male and female, with an average
age of 18.28 and standard desviation of 1.21. As regards the religion that they practiced: 555 were catho-
lic (82.5%) 39 were evangelical (5.8%) and others 79 (11.7%). To assess the level of religious practice, a
grid with items containing the frequency of religious practice was prepared, taking into account the per-
son’s self perception. The second instrument used was the Attitudes Towards Offenders Questionnaire
(ATOQ). This instrument consists of seven scales, grouped into three factors: passive, aggressive and
prosocial behavior, corresponding to the different responses to situations of offence: submission, denial,
vengeance, resentment, hostility, claim for an explanation and forgiveness. The result of MANOVA of
the tree factors of ATOQ, according to religious practice (practitioner, occasional practitioner and not
practitioner), stated a significant difference. When analyzing the contrasts we can see that practitioners
are less aggressive with respect to occasional practitioners and non practitioners. As regards the prosocial
factor, the only significant contrast is shown in practitioners, who have a higher average of prosocial atti-
tudes compared to non-practitioners.
Keywords: Religious Practice; Forgiveness; Adolescence; Prosocial Attitudes
The study of values in adolescents and young people is ex-
tremely important for the society in which we live and the cur-
rent education, as well as reactions and attitudes in situations of
violence and grievance experienced in interpersonal relation-
ships and bonds. This is when the study of attitudes and reac-
tions involving teenagers and young people with this kind of
hostile and offensive situations is utterly important in order to
identify the variables that influence the types of response; since
late adolescence and, mostly youth, are stages of special sig-
nificance for the development of moral and religious conscious-
ness because people adopt definite moral and religious posi-
tions and many reach the highest level of moral development
The value system, in particular religious values, is of funda-
mental importance in the type of reaction to hostile situations.
According to Bock (2002) and Cjeka and Bamat (2003) the role
of religion in situations of conflict, and specially what religious
leaders and the congregation can do to promote peace and rec-
onciliation, are areas about which we still do not know much,
although some progress is being made to reach a better under-
Religion is generally a source of reconciliation and commit-
ment in favor of peace and justice, and it also offers us pros-
pects for forgiveness. Therefore, this work has the purpose of
investigating which the influence of religious practice is on the
types of reaction to situations of offence, so as to determine if
religious practice fosters prosocial actions and if it diminishs
other types of more undesirable reactions such as the aggressive
Religion comes from re-ligare, which refers to linking a con-
gregation on a divinity, serving as a bond of union and commu-
nity belonging; religion has a binding character, since the peo-
ple are linked not only to a particular God or divinity, but end
up linked horizontally between them (Carretero, 2010).
Religion allows people to put themselves in the reality of the
divine, recognizing its otherness to others, being the “Other”
with respect to the human universe. That religiosity is an en-
counter with the divine, also allowing an answer through prac-
tice and everyday action (Vergote, 1969).
Being religion an environment where to discover the mean-
ing of life and where we acquire a worldview that is based on
the relationship with the world, the people and the dimension of
the sacred. It is an area where a personalized image of God who
impregnates and saturates all reality is acquired.
You can make a distinction between belief and religious
practice, being religious belief part of the spiritual dimension of
L. M. RODRIGUEZ, J. E. MORENO
the human being, which leads him to have faith in a specific
religious system, unlike religious practice with consists of put-
ting into practice activities prescribed by the religious system to
which one belongs (Murphy et al., 2000), these practices in-
clude going to mass, cult or service, personal prayer, etc. The
conception that the person has of the transcendence varies from
a personal God to something impersonal that may be associated
with the idea of something superior, a strength, a destination, or
the intentions of life itself (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000).
Antisocial attitudes are transmitted from generation to gen-
eration. These attitudes far from promoting communication
between people, distorts and even sometimes makes it impossi-
Many times we educate about acts of violence, of not accep-
tance of the differences in others, lack of respect or tolerance of
discrimination, in which the person who is “different” is ex-
cluded, is rejected and not only from the material aspect, but
radically from the symbolic one.
The other side of the cited reality is represented by prosocial
attitudes which are according the scientific community those
attitudes that promote actions that end to benefit other people,
groups and social organizations without an external reward
(Moreno & Fernández, 2011). The term “prosocial” (prosocial
behaviour) in the current meaning of the scientific work of psy-
chological discipline, was coined by Wispé (1972) as an anto-
nym of “anti-social” behavior. This term consolidated in later
works such as those of Staub (1975), Mussen and Eisenberg-
The study of prosociality has made a great progress in recent
years, taking into account has been given in the development of
a healthy personality orientated to a positive interpersonal and
social relationship. One of the objectives is to foster prosocial
behaviours in such a way that individuals have some alternative
healthy behaviour to live in a society in which every time there
are more frequent, aggressive and competitive models. In this
way, prosociality researchers believe that lays the foundations
of a more harmonious society that favours the psychohygiene
of individuals. For the positive consequences that prosociality
experts on a social system as a powerful reducer of violence
and aggression, as well as the effective construction of recip-
rocity, is emerging from the contexts of social and develop-
mental psychology reaching an important development.
One of the premises of the Prosocial Applied Research Labo-
ratory team, headed by Roche Olivar (1998, 1999), is that it is
necessary a voluntary and active esteem towards the other for
the prosocial behavior that leads to the eradication of violence
and the improvement of human communication.
A broader definition than the one commonly accepted by the
scientific community, is that of the team of the Autonomous
University of Barcelona which covers not only the simplicity of
the one-way approach, as it is considered in early research, but
also the complexity of human actions in its systemic and rela-
tional aspect and, on the other hand, gathers more cultural di-
mensions and susceptible of application in the social and po-
litical field (Roche Olivar, 1998). It is defined in the following
way: “That behavior that, without the search for external, ex-
trinsic or material rewards, favour other people or groups, ac-
cording to their criteria or social and objectively positive goals
and increase the likelihood of generation a positive reciprocity
of quality and supportive in consistent social or interpersonal
relationships, safeguarding identity, creativity and initiative of
individuals or groups involved” (Roche Olivar, 1998: p. 16).
Generally speaking, in the research of prosocial behavior, the
study of the behavior that tends to repair or reconstruction of
the damaged bonds has not been included. Investigations have
been focused on the elements involved in a good relationship
and how to preserve it, but not on how to reconstruct it once it
has been altered. Two basic types of positive responses to situa-
tions of offence or discord are suggested; these are: the claim of
explanation and the search of reconciliation (Moreno & Per-
Responses to the Situation of Offence
Frequently relationships are damaged, due to offence from
one of the parts or even mutual offence, to the point breaking
the relationship up.
When having the experience of feeling our dignity hurt, the
aggrieved part can respond with acts of vengeance or a perma-
nent feeling of hostility, rancor and resentment. Or he can,
without being aggressive, claim justice or repair or passively
satisfy himself only by denying the existence of the offence or
submitting to the offender. One of the most satisfactory ways to
restrain aggressive behaviour or responses towards offence,
according to the psychology of moral development, is to equip
people with alternative types of positive and prosocial behav-
iors that enable a more supportive and peaceful social coexis-
tence. Given this, forgiveness becomes essential to recover the
harmony of the bond, leaving both the victim and the offender
free from the annoying situation and allowing reconciliation.
Passive R e s ponses towards Offen de r s
In a situation of offence the individual performs passive or
inhibited behavior, characteristic of a conformist attitude or
acceptance of the offence. Psychodynamic and cognitive sch-
ools have described these individuals as people that instead of
putting the interest in the offence and the offender, try to con-
trol their aggressiveness to preserve internal stability. We focus
on the intrapsychic processes that balance their own aggressive
instincts in order to cope with and overcome the offensive be-
havior, triggering a kind of hypercontrol that would make the
individual reach a social overadaptation of a passive and con-
formist social type. There are two types of passive response:
Submission. It is “the conduct of subordination of the
judgment, decision or the affections that belong to the of-
fender, in general, by humiliating justifications, probably
motivated in the suppression of the aggressive instinct or
the disqualification of the aggressive act to safeguard the
bond” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 21). By submissive atti-
tudes the individual submitted passively accepts the conflict
and tends to avoid it. With strong personalities, it abides all
the rules coming from it without any criticism, finding a
certain sense of security which he really lacks since he has
little confidence in himself. The main factors of submission
are usually: aggressive parental models, excessive feelings
of guilt, extreme strictness and instilling a strong sense of
duty (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000). The submissive person does
not react, waiting others to do so and does not express any
aggression at all. They generally have introverted, reserved,
elusive, surly or timid personalities; different from adapted
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L. M. RODRIGUEZ, J. E. MORENO
people who maintain a flexible attitude in search of social
approval, and who are affable, non-aggressive and permis-
sive. The fact that submission does not hamper the rela-
tionship with each other, it doesn’t mean that it is a proso-
cial attitude, since it requires above all a free decision to do
something for others, and the attitude of submission is not
performed on freedom but, on the other hand, it is the sacri-
fice of our own volition, just to obey. Submission, accord-
ing to the psychodynamic perspective, would be “the be-
havioral expression corresponding to the defense mecha-
nism of repression” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 20). It
strengthens their own control in relation to aggressive reac-
tions, under the aid of the sense of reality.
Denial. It is “the exclusion of the factual awareness and the
concomitant feelings related to the offensive act” (Moreno,
& Pereyra, 2000: p. 22). The individual that uses an attitude
of denial does not recognize or accept reality, he rather re-
jects it, although still being unquestionable; it relegates the
disturbing object of the field of consciousness. From psy-
chology, this attitude has been given the name of opposi-
tional, referring to that individual who always says “no” to
everything, without presenting his own position as regards a
certain fact or situation. For psychoanalysts those people
who use this type of defense are constantly alert in a silent,
internal work that generates them energy loss and even de-
pression (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Denial differs from
submission in that the latter wants an internal control of the
impulse, instead, denial attempts to exert control over ex-
ternal stimuli in such a way that it can keep personal bal-
Aggressive Responses t owards Of fe nders
The word aggression is defined by the Royal Spanish Acade-
my (RAE, 2012) as the tendency to behave or respond violently.
There are three attitudes or ways to respond to a situation of
Hostile Reaction. It is “the impulsive, immediate and reac-
tive behavior.” “It refers to the fact of reacting immediately
by attacking or damaging/injuring the aggressor” (Moreno
& Pereyra, 2000: p. 24). Hostílitas is the Latin word that
gave rise to the term hostility; derived from hostilis adjec-
tive that refers to everything that has to do with the enemy
(hostis), hostility, harassment and war. Hostility or anger is
defined as the emotional state consisting of feelings that
vary in intensity, either from mild annoyance to anger or
rage (Spielberger et al., 1985). Hostility differs from ag-
gression in the fact that the latter implies a destructive be-
havior, either towards objects or people, however the first
one, only refers to feelings and attitudes that can provoke an
aggressive response. Spielberger makes a difference between
manifested cholera/anger and contained cholera. Manifested
anger is expressed through physical and/or verbal actions
such as insults, threats, or criticism; whereas contained cho-
lera is when all forms of anger, which is considered as an
expression of resentment, are omitted (Spielberger et al., 1985).
Hostility has three components: the cognitive component
that refers to negative beliefs that the individual has towards
others, attributing them immoral or threatening or unreliable
features; the affective component comprises everything re-
lated to cognitive emotions in different levels; and the be-
havioral component that includes different verbal and/or
physical forms of aggression (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000).
Resentment. It is the fact of saving internally feelings of
anger and hatred that predispose enmity or cruelty with the
offender. Resentment is defined as the entrenched and bitter
memory of a particular insult, from which one wants to get
satisfaction. Its synonym is bitterness, which comes from
the Latin term rancor (complaint, grievance, claim) (Kan-
cyper, 2006). The resentful person is the one that when of-
fended feels so hurt that he does not want to or cannot for-
get the offence. Deep inside he feels an aggressive desire
which he fails to carry out and therefore acts as a thorn
stuck in his interior. It is said that resentment is born of ha-
tred inhibited in its purpose, which binds the person with
the hated object or individual leaving him locked in the past.
Max Scheler described resentment as mental poisoning/
psychic intoxication, as extremely contagious poison, or a
state of poisoning and internal toxicity (Scheler, 1998). The
resentful person shows himself particularly offended to-
wards everything that can hurt him in his worth or honour,
and requires immediate compensation for the damages suf-
Vengeance. “It is a premeditated behavior of intentional
search of vengeance by means of a similar or superior pun-
ishment to the one suffered” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p.
25). Erich Fromm relates revenge to reactive and vengeful
violence. Reactive violence aims to eliminate the damage
that threatens which is a survival behavior; instead vengeful
violence tends to magically undo the damage already done,
it is completely irrational, typical of people who have felt
their self-esteem hurt and want to recover it by doing ex-
actly the same, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”
(Fromm, 1973). Neurotic people, according to Erich Fromm,
have a greater desire for revenge than mature people. There
are very pathological cases, indeed, in which revenge is part
of the end of the person’s life which is something very se-
rious since when the person does not take revenge the esti-
mation of himself and especially the sense of self and the
identity get threatened (Fromm, 1973).
Prosocial Responses to Situati ons of Offence
Explanation Request. It is “the attitude of asking the of-
fender for justifications and reasons that explain his pro-
ceeding, demanding to recover or repair, completely or
partly, the harm done, as a necessary condition to repair the
bond” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 27). In Psychology, this
attitude is given the name assertive social behavior, because
it does not focus on emotion but on the problem itself, on
the bond. It is considered a social competition ability, since
through this assertive behavior both positive rights and
feelings as well as negative or hostile ones can be expressed
in a socially acceptable way. It privileges interrelational
values rather than emotional impulses achieving through
this ability that the individual can make use of his emo-
tional freedom, expressing intelligence, responsibility, ef-
fort and sincerity. One of the definitions of assertiveness is
the one provided by Alberti who refers to it as the set of
behaviors, issued by a person in an interpersonal context,
which expresses the person’s feelings, attitudes, desires,
opinions or rights, in a direct, firm and severe way, and also
respects the other people’s feelings, attitudes, desires, opin-
ions and rights (Alberti, 1977). Although the request for
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L. M. RODRIGUEZ, J. E. MORENO
explanation works as a prosocial attitude that contributes to
meeting each other and the clarification of the conflict
situation, it cannot be compared to the attitude of forgive-
ness since this happens while safeguarding the other and the
bond with him over the offence itself and its explanations;
instead, the fact of asking for explanation is urged by the
desire to repair the damage received or the offence, and it is
based on the intention to seek justice, and the rights and
honour involved. The fact of preserving the bond moves to
a second level, being subject to the satisfaction that the of-
fender’s answer can provide” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000).
Forgiveness. It is “the attitude of taking care of the bond of
affection or love towards each other genuinely motorizing
prosocial behaviors aimed at overcoming discord and also
fostering dialogue.” “When the relationship is broken, for-
giveness keeps the possibility of reconciliation open, shut-
ting down the doors to vengeance and favoring the restora-
tion of the damaged bond” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 28).
The word forgiveness comes from the Latin words per (a
preposition that reinforces the meaning of the word to
which it is attached) and donare (verb which means “to
give”). Therefore, to forgive is a maximum expression of
giving, of love, of charity. However, the word reconcilia-
tion comes from the Latin reconciliatio—the action that
means to restore broken relationships—that translates the
Greek word katallage, meaning to change completely (Nel-
son, 1978). It refers to the fact of making up the damaged
relationship, leaving out disagreement and retrieving under-
standing and harmony. When facing the other’s offensive
attitude, forgiveness aims to suspend or cancel all punish-
ment deserved waiting for the offender’s repentance and
change of conduct. This purpose relies on the love and dig-
nity that “everyone” deserves for the mere fact of being a
person, regardless of the intensity level of the offence; it
means to recognize his intrinsic value as a person. This love,
which is considered as a life principle, radically eliminates
all hatred, enmity or revenge. It is love in its highest ex-
pression, therefore it is about loving our own enemies,
whom we have insulted, dishonored, or denigrated (Moreno
& Pereyra, 2000). The forgiveness is a time consuming
process as evidenced by numerous studies (Worthington et
al., 2000). Robert Enright (2004) defined the interpersonal
forgiveness: “Forgiveness is a willingness to abandon one’s
right to resentment, negative judgment, and indifferent be-
havior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering
the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity and
even love toward him or her” (Enright & Rique, 2004: p. 1).
The objective of this study aims to investigate the influence
of religious practice on the types of reactions to situations of
offence. The authors considered forgiveness and explanation
request as prosocial attitudes, and vengeance, resentment and
hostility as antisocial attitudes. The hypothesis is that the higher
level of Christian religious practice the higher prosocial atti-
tudes and the lower aggressive attitudes.
This is a descriptive-correlational study which includes an ex
post facto design, as the independent variable has already acted
on the subjects and, therefore, it is not manipulated. The
MANOVA is used to see how religious practice (independent
variable) affects attitudes towards offenders (dependent vari-
The study was carried out in the city of Paraná, Entre Ríos,
and in the city of Buenos Aires with teenagers and young peo-
ple of both sexes.
The non-probabilistic sample, comprised 673 adolescents
and young people, 179 males (26.6%) and 494 females (73.4%)
being 18.28 the average age of subjects with a deviation of 1.21.
The high percentage of females in the sample is because both
high school and college students were studying social and hu-
man sciences. At Technical High School and College we can
observe in Argentina that there are more male students.
Regarding the religion practice: 555 are catholic (82.5%) 39
are evangelical (5.8%) and other religion or non-religion 79
To assess the individuals’ degree of religious practice we de-
signed a grid with items containing different levels of religious
practice frequency, considering the individuals’ self-perception
of their religious practice. The categories were: non-practitioner,
occasional practitioner, practitioner and usual practitioner.
The second instrument used was the complete Attitudes To-
wards Offenders Questionnaire (ATOQ). This tool, created by
Moreno and Pereyra (2000) consists of seven scales, corre-
sponding to different responses to situations of offence: sub-
mission, denial, vengeance or retaliation, rancor and resentment,
hostility, explanation or claim and forgiveness and reconcilia-
tion. These scales are analyzed in different relational fields such
as: workplace, friendship, parents, couple and God and the
The questionnaire consists of ten short situations of injustice
or violence which the person has to respond as if he were the
person aggrieved. Each story has seven possible responses to
the situation which the person must answer as to whether he
would never, seldom, often or always do it.
Below we briefly describe the key concepts of the question-
naire of attitudes towards offenders:
1) Passive responses: “Passive or inhibited behaviors, com-
patible with a conformist or offence acceptance attitude” (Mo-
reno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 19).
a) Submission “Emotional control prevails, thus leaving the
individual inhibited without the necessary strength for an active
response” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 19).
b) Denial: “Perceptive control prevails, distorting the repre-
sentation of reality, in a way that the individual ignores the
disturbing situation” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 22).
2) Aggressive responses:
c) Hostile reaction: “Impulsive, immediate and reactive be-
havior. It is the willingness to react immediately attacking or
damaging the aggressor” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 24).
d) Resentment: “To keep feelings of anger and hatred in-
wardly that predispose to enmity or malice towards the of-
fender” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 24).
e) Vengeance: “Premeditated behavior of intentional search
for vengeance by means of a similar or higher punishment to
the one suffered” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 25).
3) Prosocial behavior:
f) Claim for an explanation: “Attitude to ask the offender for
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L. M. RODRIGUEZ, J. E. MORENO
justifications and reasons that account for his actions, demand-
ing to recover or repair, in part or completely, the damage
caused as a necessary condition to repair the bond” (Moreno &
Pereyra, 2000: p. 26).
g) Forgiveness: “attitude of taking care of the bond of affec-
tion or love towards each other genuinely motorizing prosocial
behaviors aimed at overcoming discord and also fostering dia-
logue. When the relationship is broken, forgiveness keeps the
possibility of reconciliation open, shutting down the doors to
vengeance and favoring the restoration of the damaged bond”
(Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 28).
Areas (relational spheres):
1) The workplace is a common source of grievance and con-
flict in daily life, due to high exposure to contacts and interrex-
changes in everyday activities and for other reasons that make
labor or institutional variables involved (competition, power
struggle, hierarchy, etc.) (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000).
2) The relation with friends is “of the utmost importance in
the emotional sphere and the effect it has on personality devel-
opment throughout the life cycle” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p.
3) “The relationship with Parents, because of their influence
on the early stages of life, on the formation of behavior patterns
and due to the peculiar alliance that is built with the ones that
have given us life” (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 29).
4) “The couple, due to being the deepest bond, with intense
interrelational values in which sexuality plays a decisive role”
(Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 30).
5) “The relationship with God and the created order (G) en-
vironment, which takes into account the damage received by
heredity or external phenomena not attributable to human be-
ings, often awarded to God, the world, fate or life as a su-
prapersonal order “(Moreno & Pereyra, 2000: p. 30).
Offense always happens within specific situation. It is only
understood in that peculiar context, which gives it meaning.
Considering that reactions toward offense may vary according
to the closeness of the relationship, we distinguish the above
five different relational spheres (areas): the work place, friend-
ship, parent/child relationship, the couple, and God.
Validation studies provided satisfactory results. Internal con-
sistency analysis (reliability) of the seven scales were calcu-
lated with Cronbach alpha ranging from .70 to .81. This result
should be considered acceptable due to the fact that every scale
has five different relational spheres (Moreno & Pereyra, 2000).
Factor analysis reported three factors (Passive, Aggressive and
Prosocial Attitudes), which explain a relatively high proportion
of the variance (55%). To establish convergent validation sev-
eral scales were correlated with ATOQ Scales. The Social Re-
sponsibility Scale of the Emotional Quotient Inventory (Bar-On,
1994), which correlated positively with Request for Explana-
tion (r = .45, p < .000) and Forgiveness (r = .43, p < .000). The
NEO-PI-R (Costa & McCrae, 1995) Neuroticism Scale corre-
lated with Resentment (r = .37, p < .000), Vengeance (r = .27, p
< .01) and Forgiveness (r = −.29, p < .01), and Kindness Scale,
which correlated negatively with Vengeance (r = −.48, p
< .000), Resentment (r = −.37, p < .000), and Hostility (r = −.24,
p < .000). On the Hope-Hopelessness Scale (Pereyra, 1995,
1996), Hopelessness correlated positively with Resentment (r
= .43, p < .000), Vengeance (r = .28, p < .01), and Hostility (r
= .25, p < .01), and Hope correlated positively with Forgive-
ness (r = .18, p < .05). The SCL-90 (Derogatis, 1977) correlated
positively with Vengeance (r = .28, p < .01), Resentment (r
= .32, p < .000) and negatively with Forgiveness (r = −.27, p
In summary, factorial analysis and convergent validation
studies provided results consistent with the theory. Besides, the
power of discrimination of each item is good. Thus, ATOQ
presents adequate psychometric properties for assessing atti-
tudes towards offence.
The self administrable questionnaires were answered in
groups. In the case of university students, there were between 8
and 10 people in each group. For high school students, they
were administered to larger groups between 20 and 40 students.
The sample was divided into two groups, consisting of 386
college students and 287 secondary students. At the same time,
the entire sample was divided into three subgroups taking into
account the level of religious practice, namely: non-practitio-
ners, occasional practitioners and practitioners. The category of
practitioners both groups the ones who chose the practitioner
and the high practitioner categories.
To assess differences in attitudes toward offenders between
both groups, we decided to conduct a multivariate analysis of
variance (MANOVA), using the program SPSS.
The result of the multivariate analysis of variance (MA-
NOVA) of the three factors of the Attitudes Towards Offenders
Questionnaire (ATOQ) namely: aggression, passivity, proso-
ciality, according to religious practice (practitioner, occasional
practitioner and non-practitioner), shows a significant overall
difference (F Hotelling (6, 1334) = 9.91, p = 0.0001). Analyz-
ing the univariate F, we note that the differences in aggressive
attitudes towards offenders are significant (F = 22.44 p =
0.0001) in relation to religious practice, as well as prosocial
attitudes (F = 8.203 p = .0001) (see Table 1).
Analyzing the contrasts among the three subsamples we
found that as for the aggressive factor it is significant that:
practitioners are less aggressive than occasional practitioners (p
= 0.0001) and also non-practitioners (p = 0.0001). Regarding
the prosocial factor, the only significant contrast is the one of
practitioners, who have a higher average of prosocial attitudes
in relation to non-practitioners (p = 0.0001). As expected, no
significant contrasts are observed in the passive factor.
The above mentioned shows aggressive and prosocial factor
significant differences between practitioners and non practitio-
ners and occasional practitioners.
The result of the multivariate analysis of variance (MA-
NOVA) taking into account each attitude towards offenders,
namely: submission, denial, vengeance, resentment, hostility,
understanding and forgiveness, according to religious practice
shows significant overall difference (F Hotelling (14, 1326) =
5.58, p = 0.0001). Analyzing the univariate F of each attitude,
we note that the differences are significant in the attitudes of
vengeance, resentment and hostility towards offenders (in the
three cases p = 0.0001) in relation to religious practice, as well
as in forgiveness attitudes (p = 0.0001) and to a lesser extent in
explanation request (p = .016).
Analyzing the contrasts among the three subsamples, consid-
ering the seven analyzed attitudes towards offenders, the fol-
lowing conclusions are significant: practitioners are less venge-
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L. M. RODRIGUEZ, J. E. MORENO
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 627
Multivariate analysis of variance. Mean differences and deviations in ATOQ factors according to religious practice.
Non-practitioners Ocassional practitioners Practitioners
ATOQ factors M DS M DS M DS F p
Passive 22.42 3.52 23.07 3.48 22.92 3.34 1.67 .18
Aggressive 21.06 4.40 21.02 4.02 18.88 4.03 22.44 .0001
Prosocial 30.30 4.47 31.16 3.86 31.87 3.35 8.20 .0001
Sample n = 139 n = 250 n = 284 n total = 673
Multivariate analysis of variance. Mean differences and deviations in ATOQ scales according to religious practice.
Non-practitioners Ocassional practitioners Practitioners
ATOQ scales M DS M DS M DS F p
Submission 23.42 4.21 24.20 3.77 24.18 3.94 2.11 .12
Denial 21.41 3.94 21.94 4.03 21.67 3.72 .87 .41
Vengeance 17.43 5.43 16.97 4.82 14.35 3.88 30.47 .0001
Resentment 22.30 4.95 22.67 4.85 20.57 4.85 13.64 .0001
Hostility 23.45 5.07 23.42 4.58 21.73 5.01 9.96 .0001
Explanation 30.40 4.76 31.55 4.30 31.56 3.85 4.14 .01
Forgiveness 30.20 4.99 30.77 4.35 32.18 3.94 12.21 .0001
Sample n = 139 n = 250 n = 284 n total = 673
ful than non practitioners and occasional practitioners (in both
cases p = 0.0001), practitioners are less rancorous than non
practitioners (p = .003) and occasional practitioners (p = 0.0001)
as regards hostile attitudes practitioners are less hostile than
occasional practitioners (p = 0.0001) and non-practitioners (p =
0.003) as for prosocial attitudes, non-practitioners ask for less
explanation than occasional practitioners and practitioners (in
both cases p = 0.03), with respect to forgiveness, practitioners
have this attitude in a higher level than non-practitioners (p =
0.001) and occasional practitioners (p = 0.0001) (Table 2).
The above results express the significant difference in practi-
tioners’ attitudes of vengeance, resentment, hostility and for-
giveness, compared to occasional practitioners and non practi-
Discussion and Conclusion
In the present research we have observed significant differ-
ences in the attitudes towards offenders among adolescents who
practice a religion, those who do not, and the ones who do not
perform any kind of religious practice.
In adolescent practitioners, we could see a less aggressive
presence of aggressive factors, in its three dimensions of ven-
geance, resentment and hostility, as well as a higher level in
prosocial factors, mainly in the aspect of forgiveness, and to a
lesser extent in explanation request, in comparison to adoles-
Religious practice increases levels of social participation, it
is a source of emotional support (Scholte et al., 2004; Taylor,
Nailatikau, & Walkey, 2002), and can provide a sense of be-
longing (Lepore & Revenson, 2006). Within it, the concept of
forgiveness gets highly relevant in adolescence (Enright, Maria,
& Radhi, 1989). This has been shown in recent studies by
Laufer, Raz-Hamama, Levine and Solomon (2009), who found
out that religious youngsters were more likely to forgive than
those who were not; a conclusion that agrees with our research.
On the other hand, we observed a significant influence of re-
ligious practice on situations and themes of conflict and recon-
ciliation. These findings are consistent with the views express-
ed by the authors Bock (2002) and Cjeka and Bamat (2003), as
regards the role of religion in conflict situations, and especially
the role of religious leaders and the congregation, in promoting
peace and reconciliation. The results obtained become more
relevant due to being an understudied area.
Recent investigations have argued that religious attitudes and
the promotion of non-violence, would be associated with fa-
cilitating apology and forgiveness in conflict resolution (Ashy,
Mercury, & Malley-Morrison, 2010). This is consistent with the
results of this study, confirming that religious practice influ-
ences positively on forgiveness in situations of offence.
This study highlights the importance of religion, Christian in
this case, in the development of prosocial attitudes and control
of aggressive attitudes against the offender.
It is recommended for future research to match the size of the
sub-samples in relation to the sex of the participants, as in the
present investigation, the sub-sample of female is higher than
male. The inquiry into religious practice should also be deep-
ened, taking into account rituals, days of the week assigned for
religious practice, amount of time devoted to it, etc.
The most important limitations of this paper are: 1) the sam-
ple is focused on people of a specific area, 2) it comprises only
subjects from 16 to 22 years old, and 3) it doesn’t investigated
the religious practice of non-Christian believers.
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