New York: Apologies are important even to children who are six or seven years old — an age when they build social skill foundations that last a lifetime, suggests new research.
Saying sorry for any minor transgression may not help the children feel better but the quick apology can help you mend relations with them, the findings show.
“What was surprising was that children who experienced a minor transgression and heard an apology felt just as bad as those who did not hear an apology,” said the study’s lead author Marissa Drell from University of Virginia in the US.
“But those who heard the transgressor say, ‘I’m sorry’ actually shared more with that person later. The apology repaired the relationship even though it did not mitigate their hurt feelings,” Drell pointed out.
The researchers set up a situation where children were the victims of a minor accident. The children and an adult research assistant were asked to build towers out of plastic cups.
As the child neared completion of his or her tower, the adult asked to borrow a cup from the child, and in so doing toppled the child’s tower.
She either apologised or said nothing, and then left the room.
Later, when children were asked how they felt, those who received an apology reported feeling just as bad as those who did not.
But when deciding how many stickers to give to the research assistant, those who heard an apology were more generous.
“Even though an apology did not make children feel better, it did help to facilitate forgiveness,” Drell said.
“They seem to have recognised it as a signal that the transgressor felt bad about what she had done and may have been implicitly promising not to do it again,” Drell explained.
The findings appeared in the journal Social Development.