Dimensions of Social Support as Mediators of the Forgiveness-Alcohol Outcome Relationship

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OBJECTIVES: Religiousness and spirituality have been shown to be beneficially associated with substance abuse, yet little is known regarding specific aspects thereof. Forgiveness has been shown to be associated with alcohol-related outcomes largely through better mental health. The indirect role of social support, broadly defined, has also been examined but little if any association has been detected. METHODS: Through cross-sectional multiple mediation analyses we examined 2 dimensions of social support, constructive social support and social undermining, as possible mediators of the forgiveness-alcohol outcome relationship. RESULTS: Among college students identified as likely to be hazardous or harmful drinkers (n=126; ♀=60%; white=85%), we found social undermining but not constructive social support, to play a role in the relationship between forgiveness and overall problems with alcohol, consumption, dependence symptoms, negative consequences of use, and risk for relapse. Further, such relationships were observed for forgiveness of self and feeling forgiven by God, but not forgiveness of others. CONCLUSIONS: Both forgiveness of self and feeling forgiven by God were individually associated with less perceived social undermining, which in turn was associated with fewer alcohol-related problems. In addition, in certain instances, direct associations between forgiveness and fewer alcohol-related problems remained. In sum, examining multidimensional social support provides clarity to its role in the forgiveness-addiction association and reinforces the importance of understanding the multidimensional nature of all variables under consideration when conducting forgiveness-based research.