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Nice preteens don't finish last

December 26, 2012|By Mary MacVean
  • Being kind can give you a popularity boost, researchers say.
Being kind can give you a popularity boost, researchers say. (Associated Press )

Kindness matters – if a child wants to be happy and popular, researchers say.

Preteens assigned to do three acts of kindness a week found they were better liked than kids who were assigned to visit three places of their choice a week, the researchers from UC Riverside and the University of British Columbia wrote Wednesday in the journal PLoS One.

“Increasing peer acceptance is a critical goal, as it is related to a variety of important academic and social outcomes, including reduced likelihood of being bullied,” the researchers wrote.

They say it’s the first study to link performance of a simple helping behavior to an increase in popularity. Previous studies have shown that there’s a link between happy people and popular people, and that happy people are more likely to do helpful or kind things.

The researchers divided 19 classrooms of children ages 9 to 11 in Vancouver into two groups: one assigned to kind acts, one to visit places for four weeks. The children then answered surveys about their weeks. Kind acts included “vacuumed the floor” and “gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job.” Visits included the shopping center and “baseball diamond.”

Both groups showed increases in positive effect and satisfaction. But the kind acts group increased “significantly more than those who visited places” in the measure of popularity, gaining an average of 1.5 friends.

mary.macvean@latimes.com

@mmacvean on Twitter

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