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Move Over, Mean Girls

THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Preteens are happier when they engage in "acts of kindness," new research suggests.

The finding applies to boys and girls aged 9 to 12, and stems from a four-week long comparison between kids who acted kindly towards someone and those who simply paid visits to a series of "pleasant places."

Not only did the kinder tweens say they were happier by the end of the study period, but their peers were more likely to want to hang out with them than with the other group.

The results appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.

"The findings suggest that a simple and relatively brief prosocial activity can increase liking among classmates," study author Kristin Layous, of the University of California, Riverside, said in a journal news release. "Given the relationship between peer acceptance and many social and academic outcomes, we think these findings have important implications for the classroom."

The study involved more than 400 students divided into two groups: one asked to perform kind acts (such as giving someone a hug or part of their lunch); the other asked to keep a diary of places they visited that they liked (such as a mall, a sports facility, or a relative's home).

After a month the children were asked to report on their state of mind. Those who proactively engaged in "kindness" said they were relatively happier.

What's more, although both groups said they experienced a boost in their sense of "well-being" over the prior month, those in the kindness group were much more likely to be chosen by their classmates as someone they would want to get together with for school activities.

The study authors suggested that the findings might have value in schools given that "increasing peer acceptance is a critical goal related to a variety of important academic and social outcomes, including reduced likelihood of being bullied."

More information

For more on kids, emotion and behavior, visit the KidsHealth.org.

-- Alan Mozes

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