Acts of kindness make pre-teen children happier and more popular with their peers, a study claims.
The study was led by co-authors Dr. Kristin Layous from the University of California’s Riverside department of psychology, and Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Education.
The study’s findings were published on December 26 in the Open Access Journal “Plos One.”
In the study researchers “assigned” a group of 400 school children from Vancouver elementary schools, the task of performing three acts of kindness each week for four weeks, said the BBC.
Half of the children — all aged between 9 and 11 — were asked to either perform or write down the kind acts, the other half (the control group) were simply asked to keep a diary of three locations they visited each week.
Examples of some of the acts of kindness included things like, “gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job”, “vacuumed the floor,” and “gave someone some of my lunch,” the BBC reports.
At the start of the four week period, we had each student circle [the names] of students from their classroom who they would like to be in school activities with,” said Layous.
When the four-week of research came to an end, the results were clear.
“Both conditions — kindness and comparison — received more nominations from their classmates after the four weeks were over,” said Layous, adding that students in the “kindness” group received significantly more nominations than the other group.
Layous continued, saying:
“The most interesting finding to me is that a simple positive activity can promote positive relationships among peers. 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. This study was conducted in the spring, so students had already known each other all year. For them to nominate more peers at the end of a four-week activity period is promising”
According to e! Science News, both Schonert-Reichl and Layous believe the study could have far-reaching implications for the prevention and reduction of bullying.
“We show that kindness has some real benefits for the personal happiness of children but also for the classroom community,” said Schonert-Reichl.
The professor said that bullying tended to increase in Grades four and five, but that if students were asked to performing acts of kindness “teachers can create a sense of connectedness in the classroom and reduce the likelihood of bullying,” e! Science News notes.