Apology in Restorative and Juvenile Justice

Document Type

Journal Article


Taylor & Francis


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Psychology and Social Science


Allan, A., Beesley, S. M., Attwood, B. & McKillip, D. (2013). Apology in restorative and juvenile justice. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 21(2), 176-190. Available online here


In this article, we present a mixed method study that we undertook as part of a programme of research to explore the utility of the multidimensional theory of apology developed by Slocum et al. in explaining the function of apologies in family group conferences, healing circles, juvenile justice conferencing and victim offender mediation [Slocum, D., Allan, A., & Allan, M.M. (2011). An emerging theory of apology. Australian Journal of Psychology, 62(2), 83-92]. Slocum et al. theorize that an acceptable apology consists of at least one of three components, each of which has a focus continuum that ranges from an exclusive self focus to a self-other focus. The results of Experiment One were counterintuitive in that participants rated the offender significantly more sorrowful and perceived the offender to be significantly more focused on the needs of victims in the self-focused condition than in the self-other-focused condition. The analysis of the qualitative data, however, indicated that participants perceived the formulation of the self-other apology as demeaning and not age appropriate, and this may have influenced the quantitative findings. When the vignette was changed in Experiment Two to address these limitations, the self-other apology was significantly more likely to be rated as sincere and acceptable than the self-focused apology. The association between apology focus and forgiveness, however, was not significant. An investigation of the qualitative data suggests that this may be because some people forgive for their own sake and not that of the offender. Together the results of the study indicate that the multidimensional theory can be useful to guide both research and practice in respect of juvenile justice.