JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Having close friendships during the teenage years has been linked to better self-esteem and emotional health. Now, researchers have identified a key factor that helps teens make and keep friends.
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. The teens also had higher self-esteem and better mental health in middle school and high school.
Those who were empathetic, but also showed signs of rebellious and aggressive behavior, had more opposite-sex friendships in the earlier years. This trend was short-lived.
By senior year, the kids who were empathetic and not aggressive had more opposite-sex and same-sex friendships.
Researchers said the findings show younger kids might find rebellious behavior more attractive, but as they mature, being nice mattered more.
Experts said parents can teach empathy by modeling it. Parents can help kids identify what they have in common with others, and parents can keep encouraging kindness.
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% of teens surveyed said they have a close friend from their school.