Connecticut Families Extra: Teen Friendships: Does the Nice Guy Win?

Connecticut Families

Having close friendships during the teenage years is linked to better self-esteem and emotional health. Researchers have identified a key factor that helps teens make and keep friends.

You tell your kids to be kind, but does that quality really help them when it comes to their friendships? In a recent study of 2,800 students, scientists at Australian Catholic University found teens who were more empathetic were more likely to be identified as a close friend among same-sex peers, had higher self-esteem, and better mental health in middle school and high school.

Interestingly, those who were empathetic but also showed signs of rebellious and aggressive behavior had more opposite-sex friendships in the earlier years. But this trend was short-lived. By senior year, the kids who were empathetic and not aggressive had more opposite-sex and same-sex friendships

These findings show younger kids might find rebellious behavior more attractive, but as they mature, being nice matters more. Experts say you can teach empathy by modeling it. Help your kids identify what they have in common with others. Ask questions like, “How would you feel in that situation?” and remember keep encouraging kindness. It could be the key to making and keeping friends.

While technology has changed how teens interact with each other, a recent study showed most still cite school as an important place for making friends. In fact, 87 percent of teens surveyed said they have a close friend from their school.

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