Posted by & filed under Child Development, Human Development, Social Cognition, Social Perception, Social Psychology.

Description: You accidentally bump into a stranger as you walk down the street and what do you do? You apologize, in fact you both might apologize. Social psychology researchers tell us adults do this not so much to repair feelings as to ensure ongoing general positive social harmony. What would your prediction be about how early grade school children respond in situations where their feelings of been hurt and more apologies are or are not offered?

Source: University of Virginia. “‘Sorry’ doesn’t heal children’s hurt, but it mends relations.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 November 2015.

Date: November 11, 2015

Image by emmagrau from Pixabay

Links: Article Link —

Imagine you’re leaving a coffee shop and someone bumped into you and cause you to spill a bit of your coffee. You are upset with the loss of coffee and perhaps with a stain on your clothes. Now imagine the person either simply walks away, apologizes and then walks away, or apologizes and offers to buy you another coffee and perhaps also to pay for the cleaning bills associated with your clothing. When people apologize it may not make us feel better but it does seem to reduce social tension created by the event. If however, the individual offers restitution, we may feel better even if we do not take them up on their offer. Developmentally speaking, early grade school children are in the process of figuring out how social relationships work and sometimes struggle to understand how casual social relationships like the one described above actually play out. In the study described in the article linked above, social psychologists ran to studies looking at this question. In the first study children were asked how they would feel if someone knocked over a tower plastic cups they had been building and either did nothing, apologized, or apologizes for restitution. When asked, seven and eight-year-old children predicted that they would feel better if the person apologized or offered restitution. The experimenters then engineered a situation where an adult and child were both building plastic cup towers in the adult asked the child for some workups and in reaching for them knocked over the child’s tower. The adult then did nothing and left the room, apologized and left the room, or apologized and offered restitution for the results of their actions. The children in this second study reported only feeling better when restitution was offered. However, if an apology was made they subsequently shared a larger number of stickers with the adult when given the opportunity than did the children who did not receive an apology. This suggests that like adults bumping into one another on the street, even early grade school children understand the importance of acting in some way to restore positive social relations.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the factors that might lead us to behave in ways that restore social relations even in situations for the damage is minimal and the people involved are strangers?
  2. What are some of the ways that children may learn about the importance of the sorts of social relational behaviours?
  3. Why might it be important for us to seem to be prepared to mend social relationships even if we don’t succeed, or even attempt, to heal minor social hurts?

References (Read Further):

Marissa B. Drell, Vikram K. Jaswal. Making Amends: Children’s Expectations about and Responses to Apologies. Social Development, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/sode.12168

DiDonato, T. E., McIlwee, L. J., & Carlucci, M. E. (2015). The fallout of forgiveness How forgiveness predicts third-party perceptions of the forgiver and the forgiver’s relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32(4), 417-440.