December 30, 2012
Doing Good Deeds Could Make School-Aged Children More Popular
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Kids who do nice things for others are more likely to be popular among their fellow classmates, researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) claim in a new study.
For the study, 400 nine to 11 year old fourth and fifth grade students attending elementary school in Vancouver were either asked to perform three simple acts of kindness or visit three different places each week for four weeks.
Before the start of the project and at the conclusion of the four-week period, each child circled the names of students that they wanted to participate in school activities with, Dr. Kristin Layous of the UCR psychology department told BBC News reporter Victoria Gill.
"The acts of kindness were simple. The children gave mom a hug when she was stressed out, shared their lunches, or vacuumed the floor," NPR's Nancy Shute explained, adding that the test at the end of the study showed that all of the kids "had more positive emotions, and were slightly happier“¦ But the children who performed acts of kindness were much more likely to be accepting of their peers, naming more classmates as children they'd like to spend time with."
"The most interesting finding to me is that a simple positive activity can promote positive relationships among peers," Dr. Layous told Gill. "I was not completely surprised that students increased in happiness, because we have found the same effects in adults. [But] I was surprised that a simple activity could change the dynamics of a well-established classroom."
The UCR researcher went on to suggest that encouraging this kind of behavior amongst pupils could help schools go a long way to prevent bullying from taking place. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology (AACAP), as many as half of all US children are bullied at some point during their scholastic careers, and one out of ten is a victim of bullying on a regular basis.
In addition to Dr. Layous, authors of the study include Katherine Nelson and Sonja Lyubomirsky, both of UCR's Department of Psychology, and Eva Oberle and Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl of the UBC Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology and Special Education. Their research was published under the title " Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being" in the journal PLoS One on Wednesday.