Children's reactions to apologies

Darby, Bruce W.
Schlenker, Barry R.
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American Psychological Association
In 2 experiments, 221 kindergartners and 1st, 4th, and 7th graders judged actors who committed a transgression under conditions of low or high responsibility and low or high consequences. The actor's motives were good or bad and the act was intended or accidental. The actor then either did nothing or employed 1 of 3 increasingly elaborate apologies. As hypothesized, the actor's predicament was most severe, producing the harshest judgments when (a) the actor had high responsibility for committing an inadvertent act that produced high consequences, and (b) the act was the result of a bad rather than good motive or was intended rather than accidental. More elaborate apologies produced less blame and punishment and more forgiveness, liking, positive evaluations, and attributions of greater remorse. The judgments of the 7th graders were more affected by the actor's apology than those of the younger Ss. These age differences reflect the younger Ss' poorer ability to integrate social information and appreciate the implications of social conventions. However, the younger Ss' judgments were similar to those of older Ss.
Apologizing , Judgment in children , Moral development
Darby, B. W., & Schlenker, B. R. (1982). Children’s reactions to apologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(4), 742-753.