Kinder children are more popular

Children in a playground The study revealed that kinder children were happier and found "greater acceptance in their peer groups"

Related Stories

Performing deliberate acts of kindness makes pre-teen children more popular with their peers, say scientists.

A team led by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, "assigned" children three acts of kindness each week for four weeks.

After the four weeks, children were happier and more liked by classmates.

The researchers say than encouraging such simple "positive acts" could help children to get along with classmates and even prevent instances of bullying.

The findings are published in the open access journal Plos One.

Cuddling and cleaning

Working with 400 school children aged between nine and 11, the team assigned whole classrooms either to perform and note down three kind acts per week or - as a control group - to keep a diary of three locations they visited each week.

The kind acts were not necessarily directed towards their classmates. Some examples of the things children reported were: "Gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job", "gave someone some of my lunch," and "vacuumed the floor".

Start Quote

I was surprised that a simple activity could change the dynamics of a well-established classroom”

End Quote Kristin Layous UC Riverside

"Before the four weeks, we had each student circle [the names] of students from their classroom who they would like to be in school activities with," explained the lead researcher, Kristin Layous from UC Riverside's department of psychology.

The children were asked to repeat this same "nomination process" at the end of four weeks.

"Both conditions - kindness and comparison - received more nominations from their classmates after the four weeks were over," explained Dr Layous, but students in the kindness [group] gained significantly more nominations than the [other group].

"The most interesting finding to me is that a simple positive activity can promote positive relationships among peers," said Dr Layous.

She suggested that by reinforcing social connections between children in this simple way, schools could help to combat bullying.

School years

"I was not completely surprised that students increased in happiness, because we have found the same effects in adults," said the researcher.

"[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."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Science & Environment stories


Features & Analysis

  • Dana Lone HillDana Lone Hill

    The Native American names that break Facebook rules

  • Painting from Rothschild collectionDark arts Watch

    The 50-year fight to recover paintings looted by the Nazis

  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

  • Signposts showing the US and UK flagsAn ocean apart

    How British misunderstanding of the US is growing

BBC Future


Space like you've never heard it

Listen to out-of-this-world music


  • Former al-Qaeda double agent Aimen DeanHARDtalk Watch

    Islamic State is about revenge says former al-Qaeda member turned spy Aimen Dean

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.