Lending a helping hand to strangers can help teenagers improve self esteem and boost confidence, suggests new research.
While adolescents who exhibited pro-social behavior - such as helping, sharing and comforting - towards strangers had higher self-esteem a year later, the same was not true for those in the study who exhibited pro-social behavior solely to friends and family, found the research published in the Journal of Adolescence.
"This study helps us to understand that young people who help those with whom they do not have a relationship report feeling better about themselves over time," said study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker, Professor at Brigham Young University in the US.
"Given the importance of self-esteem during the teen years, this is an important finding. It suggests there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one's moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviors as well," Padilla-Walker said.
In the study, researchers looked at 681 adolescents, 11-14 years old, in two US cities.
The participants responded to 10 statements such as "I feel useless at times" or "I am satisfied with myself" to assess self-esteem.
"Not all helping is created equal, and we're finding that pro-social behavior toward strangers is protective in a variety of ways that is unique from other types of helping," Padilla-Walker said.
Another important finding was that the link between pro-social behavior and self-esteem was over a one-year time period and present across all three age lags in the study.