Summary:Children are more likely to forgive wrongdoers who apologize, especially if the offender is in their “in-group”, and the upset child possesses advanced Theory of Mind skills.
Source:North Carolina State University
A recent study suggests that teaching children to understand other people’s perspectives could make it easier for them to learn how to forgive other people. The study also found that teaching children to make sincere apologies can help them receive forgiveness from others.
is important in children and adults for restoring relationships and
limiting future conflicts,” says Kelly Lynn Mulvey, lead author of the
study and an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State
University. “But we didn’t know much about what makes children more
likely to forgive others, particularly from early childhood to
adolescence. That’s what we wanted to explore with our study.”
that end, Mulvey and her collaborators enlisted 185 children, between
the ages of 5 and 14, in the study. Researchers conducted in an in-depth
interview with each child that collected background information and
assessed the child’s “theory of mind” skills. Theory of mind is your
ability to understand that someone else’s beliefs, intentions and
desires are different from your own.
then led each child through a series of scenarios involving other
children who are “in group” and “out group.” Specifically, each study
participant was told they were part of a group, such as the green team.
interviews, researchers described some children in the scenarios as
also being on the green team (making them in-group), while other
children in the scenarios were on the yellow team (making them
out-group). In each scenario, interviewers asked study participants
whether they were willing to forgive a group that left them out of a
game or activity.
were three main findings. First, children are more likely to forgive
someone if they have apologized. Second, children are more likely to
forgive people who are “in group.” Third, the more advanced a child’s
Theory of Mind skills are, the more likely they are to forgive others.
found that kids have sophisticated abilities to forgive others,” Mulvey
says. “Children are capable of restoring relationships with others, and
are usually interested in doing so.”