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Increased Peer Acceptance Key to Preventing Bullying

Update Date: Dec 27, 2012 07:35 AM EST

A new study suggests that children who make efforts to be kind to others are happier and get more acceptance from their peers.

The study by researchers from University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside, was published in the journal PLOS ONE and aimed at examining how happiness can be boosted in children between the ages of 9 and 11.

According to Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor in UBC's Faculty of Education, and co-author Kristin Layous, of the University of California, Riverside, increased peer acceptance is the key to preventing bullying.

For the study, the researchers asked 400 students from Vancouver elementary schools to report on their happiness and to name classmates with whom they would like to work with on school activities.

After that, the teachers asked half of the students to perform acts of kindness like sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug when she felt stressed, and the other half was asked to note down the place they liked such as the playground or a grandparent's house, etc. Four weeks later, the children were again asked to report their happiness and identify classmates whom they would like to work with.

The results showed that although both the groups reported being happier, children who performed acts of kindness reportedly chose more 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," says Schonert-Reichl, also a researcher with the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC.

Schonert-Reichl further said that bullying tends to increase by grades 4 and 5. By simply asking students to spare a thought to how kind they are to people around them, "teachers can create a sense of connectedness in the classroom and reduce the likelihood of bullying."

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