Prosocial behavior linked to higher self-esteem in adolescents

According to a study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, teenagers who engage in prosocial behavior are more likely to have higher self-esteem. Researchers at Brigham Young University began their study by analyzing 619 adolescents, in the US, and aged between 11 to 14 years old. The participants were studied in four separate times, from 2008 to 2011, according to the findings.

A self-esteem assessment was utilized in which participants were given a total of 10 statements. “I am satisfied with myself” and “I feel useless at times” were among some of the statements.

Prosocial behavior was measured by self-reports, where researchers focused on certain aspects of kindness, like for example: “I help people I don’t know, even if it’s not easy for me.”

The results revealed participants who exhibited generosity or kindness to strangers had higher self-esteem, one year later. The findings, however, proposes that the boost in confidence is only limited to acts of kindness to strangers, as prosocial behavior toward close friends or family members did not yield similar results.

“Though not an overly large effect, this suggests a stable link between helping and feeling better about oneself across the early adolescent years,” said Laura Padilla-Walke, a BYU researcher.

The study, as Padilla-Walke suggests, puts into perspective a possible link between helping strangers and moral identity.

“Given the importance of self-esteem during the teen years, this is an important finding. It suggests there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one’s moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviors as well.”

Whether it be volunteering at a soup kitchen or a mental health facility, parents can improve their child’s self-confidence by initiating opportunities to help those less fortunate, Padilla-Walke stated.

“It is best if teens can directly see the benefit of their help on others. This can increase gratitude for young people and help them to focus less on their own problems. It is also a way to help them meet new friends or spend time with family.

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