Do children apologize to each other? Apology events in young Israeli peer discourse

Zohar Kampf, Shoshana Blum-Kulka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Children's apologies are greatly under-researched. Though there is wealth of information available on the pragmatics of apologies generally, we know much less about whether and how children apologize. Our study explores modes of remedial work by Israeli children in peer discourse. The data were collected through ethnographic observation of Israeli preschool and préadolescents, and consist of 57 (taped and transcribed) apology events identified in natural peer interactions. The analysis of children's apology events revealed a rich range of apology strategies used by 4-6 year old children, indicating the acquisition of remedial competencies for face management at a relatively early age and showed that with age, a richer range of potential violations is identified, and more elaborate forms of repair are being used, indicating a growing sensitivity to the other's face needs. Furthermore, we found that adult intervention in children's conflictual situations serves to model remedial strategies, but is not necessarily effective for conflict resolution. Importantly, peer talk apology events index the centrality of friendship in young children's social world: breaches from expected behavior in play are taken as face threatening to the core of friendship, namely the children's shared face as friends, and hence can function to end (even if temporarily) the friendship. Consequently, in such cases, the restoration of friendship becomes a necessary precondition for the felicitous realization of an apology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11-37
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Politeness Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


  • Apology
  • Peer talk
  • Pragmatic development
  • Remedial competencies
  • Remedial work
  • Social norms


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