Supportive friends make teenagers more caring

New York, Feb 2 (IANS) Caring for others dips during adolescence but when young people feel supported by their social circles, their concern for others rebounds, suggests new research.

Values of social responsibility decrease between the ages 10 to 16 before levelling off in later adolescence, the study showed.

“Relationships with parents, schools, and peers do get more complex during adolescence, and some young people may start to feel less bonded to those around them,” said one of the researchers Laura Wray-Lake, assistant professor in psychology at the University of Rochester in New York.

“But, if a student has support from their parents and their school, and they also have supportive friends, those relationships are going to give them a boost in terms of pro-social engagement,” Wray-Lake noted.

“Increases in young people’s perceptions of positive relationships related to increases in social responsibility. It is also true that decreases in positive relationships resulted in declines in social responsibility,” Wray-Lake explained.

The study involved over 3,500 US adolescents from rural, suburban and urban communities.

The researchers also looked at students’ individual behaviour and found that over time, volunteering resulted in an increase in values of caring.

The actual experience of being civically engaged appears to enhance social responsibility values, the researchers said.

The opposite is true, however, for substance use. An increase in substance use is related to lower social responsibility over time.

According to the study, published in Developmental Psychology, young people who get involved with risky behaviour might have values that are more hedonistic – living in the moment and having fun – which can conflict with social values that lead to helping and caring for other people.

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