Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Richard P. Schellenberg
Previously, research regarding the area of betrayal has examined the motivations for betrayal, relationship changes following betrayal, individual differences in betrayal, and betrayal and the social network. Until Rupp’s (1999) recent study, however, there appear to have been little empirical research investigating the effectiveness of various strategies for coping with betrayal. Rupp (1999) utilized a model of resolution of unfinished business in order to investigate the effectiveness of various strategies for coping with betrayal. This model was developed by Greenberg and Foerster (1996) and is a product of their psychotherapy change process research that was guided by the Gestalt therapy approach. Although Rupp (1999) concluded that the model for resolution of unfinished business has potential for identifying effective ways of coping with betrayal experiences outside of the therapy setting, her study involved certain limitations that warrant replication of her results. The first problem of the present research was to replicate Rupp’s (1999) main findings in order to strengthen her conclusions regarding the model for the resolution of unfinished business. The second problem of the present study pertains to the idea that other processes, not explicitly specified by the model for the resolution of unfinished business, might also facilitate effective coping with betrayal. Extrapolating from previous findings in the area of coping with loss (Davis et al., 1998), this second problem involved the assumption that making sense of the betrayal and finding benefit in the betrayal might also aid in coping with betrayal experiences. In addition to studying the above problems, the present thesis also examined whether relationship between coping processes and outcomes (i.e., resolution of the betrayal and interpersonal problems) differed for betrayal experiences that resulted in the loss of the relationship with the betrayer as compared to those in which this relationship was preserved. Undergraduate university students (N=113) were asked to complete a packet of questionnaires with reference to a self-selected situation in which they felt they were betrayed by another person. Results indicated that two components of the model of unfinished business, “more positive representation of other (the betrayer)” and “self-validation or understand other” were associated with greater degrees of resolution of the betrayal. Also consistent with the model, the components “expression of blame, complaint, or hurt” and “negative representation of others” were not related to greater degrees of resolution of the betrayal. Both making sense and finding benefit with respect to the betrayal were related to greater degrees of resolution of the students’ betrayal experiences. Finally, a secondary finding was that there were differences in relationships between resolution and coping processes associated with making sense, finding benefit, and components of the model for students reporting a loss of the relationship with the betrayer as compared to students reporting that this relationship was preserved. Overall, the findings of the present thesis replicated Rupp’s (1999) research to the extent of strengthening her conclusion that the model for the resolution of unfinished business has potential for identifying effective ways of coping with betrayal outside of psychotherapy contexts. In addition, the present findings extended her results by suggesting that making sense of and finding benefit in betrayals, processes not specified by the model, may also facilitate effective coping with betrayal experiences.
Copyright 2000 Paula R. Hickel
Hickel, Paula R., "Coping with Betrayal" (2000). Master's Theses. 2781.