Research shows Acts of Kindness can Boost Self-Esteem in Adolescents

CLEVELAND – The teenage years can be a rollercoaster of emotions and it’s normal for teens to grapple with self-esteem issues at times.

But there’s good news, as research shows acts of kindness may help boost adolescent self-esteem.

Joe Austerman, D.O., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, was not involved in the study, but said results show that the greatest benefit may come from helping strangers.

“If you’re volunteering and helping people out that need help, and actually helping those people out that you’re strangers with actually has a better benefit for you than helping people out that you already know,” said Dr. Austerman. 

Joe Austerman, D.O., said encouraging teens to volunteer or participate in activities that help others can give them a boost in self-esteem.

Researchers studied questionnaires from 681 adolescents and looked at how self-esteem was associated with acts of kindness toward strangers, friends and family.

Results show that acts of kindness towards strangers had a greater positive impact on self-esteem than those toward family or friends.

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They also found that all acts of kindness – regardless if they were big or small – had a positive impact on self-esteem.

Volunteering or participating in activities that help others is a good place to start for teens who need a boost in self-esteem. 

“Having them engage with people actually builds a sense of self-competency,” said Dr. Austerman. “They do better academically, they tend to develop a better peer support system and it feeds forward as an adult. They tend to accomplish more as adults when they’re doing prosocial behaviors as kids.”

Previous studies have also linked acts of kindness to academic success and a reduction in anxiety and depression.

Complete results can be found in the Journal of Adolescence.