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Helping Strangers May Help Teens' Self-Esteem

At the start of the new year, parents may encourage their teens to detox from social media, increase exercise, or begin a volunteer project. While kids may bristle at the thought of posting fewer selfies, surveys indicate 55 percent of adolescents enjoy volunteering. And according to a recent study, when it comes to helping others, teens may benefit psychologically from spending time helping strangers.

The study, published in December in the Journal of Adolescence, suggests that altruistic behaviors, including large and small acts of kindness, may raise teens' feelings of self-worth. However, not all helping behaviors are the same. The researchers found that adolescents who assisted strangers reported higher self-esteem one year later.

"Surprisingly, teens who helped friends and family members did not report the same emotional change," says Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University and one of the study's researchers.


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