A new study confirms that acts of kindness improve happiness and social acceptance among pre-teens.
ACTS OF KINDNESS IMPROVE SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE AMONG PRE-TEENS
Some have observed that “nice guys finish last,” and, indeed, there is some data to suggest that, in the corporate world at least, the arrogant are, ironically, often viewed as more motivated, more goal-oriented, and more deserving of advancement when compared to their less aggressive peers. However, most of us would like to believe that a kind and caring heart will be rewarded in life, and rewarded by others. But, is there any objective evidence that kindness really does beget happiness and kindness? According to a newly published clinical study from Canada, kindness really does appear to increase our personal sense of well-being, as well as increasing the likelihood that others will regard us kindly in return. Moreover, the social benefits of being kind towards others appear to begin relatively early in life, as this newly published study in the journal PLOS ONE reveals.
For teenagers, and for those on the cusp of adolescence, being accepted and being liked by one’s peers is of the utmost importance. Indeed, young people who feel excluded from social groups at school often end up feeling like outcasts, and may suffer considerable long term injury to their self-confidence and self-esteem. In this newly published clinical study, 415 children between the ages of 9 and 11 years volunteered to participate in this study for a period of 4 weeks. These young volunteers were randomly assigned either to perform 3 acts of kindness or, instead, to visit 3 places on a weekly basis. At the end of week, each student was asked to report on their activities during the previous week.
At the end of this 4-week study, both groups of students experienced measurable improvements in their sense of well-being. However, the students who were assigned to complete 3 acts of kindness per week experienced a significantly greater improvement in acceptance and approval by their student peers (based upon confidential classroom surveys) when compared to the student volunteers who had been randomized to visit 3 places per week.
The authors note in their conclusion that, based upon the findings of this study, “doing good” for others benefits not only the recipients of kind acts, but also the person who is performing the kind acts as well. Furthermore, in view of the importance of being accepted by one’s peers, and of being happy, during the pre-teen and teenage years of our lives, the finding that simple acts of kindness increase both acceptance by social peers and internal happiness are very important findings, indeed. Other important findings from this study include the observation that children who are well-accepted by their peers are more inclusive in their actions towards others, and are less likely to engage in exclusionary behaviors towards others, including bullying (or worse…). At the classroom level, the authors of this study also note that the absence of both favored and marginalized children is associated with improved overall classroom mental health. Based upon the findings of this intriguing study of pre-teen children, the authors suggest that teachers and parents should strive to introduce a culture of regular “acts of kindness” and inclusion within classrooms, which sounds like a very good idea to me.
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Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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