Kids Who Perform Kind Acts Are Happier, Gain Greater Acceptance With Peers

Lawrence LeBlond for – Your Universe Online
There are several keys to happiness and acceptance. For children, kindness is an important key. Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have found that nine- to twelve-year-olds who perform kind acts for others are not only happier, but tend to be more accepted by their peers.
Their study, published in Wednesday´s issue of PLoS ONE, suggests that increasing peer acceptance is also an important key to preventing bullying.
UBC´s Kimberly Schonert-Reichl and UCR´s Kristin Layous examined how to boost happiness in 9- to 12-year-old students. The researchers asked 400 students from Vancouver elementary schools to report on their happiness levels and to identify which of their classmates they would like to work with on school activities.
Next, half of the study group were asked to perform acts of kindness–such as sharing a lunch or giving their mom a hug when she felt bad–and the other half were asked to keep track of pleasant places they had visited. After four weeks of performing kind deeds and tracking place visits, the researchers found that those who performed the kind acts were happier than the other group.
Then to assess peer acceptance, students were once again given a list of classmates and asked to circle those they would like to work with on school activities. While both groups of children said they were happier, the authors found that the group that had performed kind acts fared significantly better, selecting higher numbers of classmates to work with on school activities.
“We show that kindness has some real benefits for the personal happiness of children but also for the classroom community,” Schonert-Reichl, a researcher with the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC, said in a statement.
Schonert-Reichl said bullying tends to increase in Grades 4 and 5. But by simply asking students to think about how they can act kindly to those around them, “teachers can create a sense of connectedness in the classroom and reduce the likelihood of bullying.”
“Increasing peer acceptance is a critical goal related to a variety of important academic and social outcomes, including reduced likelihood of being bullied,” the authors report.
“The findings suggest that a simple and relatively brief prosocial activity can increase liking among classmates. Given the relationship between peer acceptance and many social and academic outcomes, we think these findings have important implications for the classroom,” added Layous.