Daily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Joseph Ciarrochi, Professor of Psychology, Australian Catholic University

Simply being nice wins more friends in high school than being a rebel, our study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology has found.

We looked at what sorts of social strategies help teens win close friends of the same and opposite sex. We asked whether aggressiveness and breaking rules – what we will call being a rebel – sometimes make teens well liked by their peers.

We found that empathetic children who also show some rebellious and antisocial behaviours have more opposite-sex friends in the early years of high school than those who were merely empathetic and followed the rules. But in the latter years empathetic children who keep to the rules beat their more aggressive peers and had more opposite-sex friends.

Past research shows being empathetic helps young people communicate, resolve conflict and engage in social behaviours, all of which helps build close friendships. Others have argued being a giver rather than a taker helps a person succeed socially.

But we wanted to find out why some people who display antisocial behaviour are socially successful. We also wanted to know if this behaviour was equally effective in opposite and same-sex relationships. Perhaps aggression and rule-breaking is attractive to the opposite sex but repellent to the same sex?

Measuring empathy and aggression

We addressed this question in a large, longitudinal study of friendship development in high school. The study assessed 2,803 students in 16 different schools across two different Australian states and five different time points between Years 8 and 12. We used both self-reports and peer-rated measures.

We measured empathy and antisocial behaviour (aggression and rule breaking) using self-reports. Empathy is the capacity to understand others’ emotions. Students were asked to rate statements such as: “When someone is feeling down I can usually understand how they feel,” and “I can often understand how people are feeling even before they tell me.”

Read more: Understanding others' feelings: what is empathy and why do we need it?

Aggression and rule breaking also involved scoring statements of students engaging in arguing, fighting with other children, destroying things and bullying others. The scales in our study have been widely used and validated in former research.

We measured friendships using peer nominations of who youth felt where their close friends.

Our research identified four types of young people:

  • nice youth (around 36% of all participants, with 70% being female and 30% male) – these young people are high in empathy and avoid hurting others
  • rebels (around 11% of participants, 31% female and 69% male) – these young people hurt others, break the rules and have little empathy
  • nice rebels (around 18% of participants, 67% female and 33% male) – they have the ability to be both empathetic and hurt others
  • nonplayers (around 36% participants, with 28% being female and 72% male) – they use neither empathy nor aggressive strategies.

The nice rebels were the most interesting group. Theory suggests people who exhibit these qualities have an advantage over others because they can use empathy to build social alliances and aggression to become dominant in those alliances.

Rebel teens can quickly make friends, but in the end, it's the nice ones who have the most Being a bully will lose you friends. from shutterstock.com

Nice people win

In Years 8-10 (around 13-15 years old) the nice rebels had more opposite-sex friends than the nice youth. The plain rebels tended to attract fewer opposite-sex friends than both the nice youth and the nice rebels, but these rebels still did better than the nonplayers, who were relatively invisible to the opposite sex.

However, the nonplayers did about as well as both types of rebels in same-sex relationships.

But in Years 11-12 (around 16-17 years old), the nice rebels lost opposite-sex friends and became less popular with the opposite sex than nice youth. The plain rebels also lost friends and became similar to the nonplayers in opposite-sex friendships.

Read more: Nice guys finish first: empathetic boys attract more close female friends

The story gets even better (if you like nice youth). Throughout all of high school, the nice youth had more same-sex friendships than all other groups and higher well-being than both the nice rebels and the rebels.

At first, young people might have seen the nice rebels as charming, fun and powerful. However, over time, they experienced the rebel acting aggressively and, eventually, this disrupted the friendship.

What about mental health?

We also used self-reports to assess children’s well-being. We found the nice rebels and rebels consistently reported lower levels of self-esteem and worse mental health then the nice youth and nonplayers.

We also found important differences between males and females. Females paid a higher price for being in one of the rebellious groups, experiencing worse mental health and self-esteem than their male counterparts. We speculate society may be more rejecting of rebellious females who are aggressive and break the rules.

The study had its limitations. Research is needed to determine what motivates young people to rebel. We also need to better understand why rebels experience lower self-esteem and worse mental health than the nice youth and nonplayers.

But what our research does show is that being nice is not only the ethically right strategy, it is also the most effective. Nice strategies such as taking perspective and giving can help young people build strong social alliances.

Authors: Joseph Ciarrochi, Professor of Psychology, Australian Catholic University

Read more http://theconversation.com/rebel-teens-can-quickly-make-friends-but-in-the-end-its-the-nice-ones-who-have-the-most-113550


The Conversation

Politics

Senator Colbeck named Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport

Liberal Senator for Tasmania Richard Colbeck has expressed his excitement in taking on responsibility for the portfolios of Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and S...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Senator Canavan: Statement on Queensland Government's decision on Adani

I welcome the Queensland Government's announcement regarding timelines for Adani's approvals, but I don't thank them. The thanks go to the people of Central Queensland who have forced this outcome t...

Senator Canavan - avatar Senator Canavan

Australians reject Labor’s marine park lock outs

Australians have rejected Labor’s plans to return to their disastrous marine park lock outs policy. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Richard Colbeck said the strong result fo...

Senator Colbeck - avatar Senator Colbeck

Business News

The right way of compliance training: LMS

Does your business fall in the category of a small business, medium business or a highly regulated enterprise? Regardless, compliance training is unarguably necessary for everyone. However, many ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How Car Trailers Benefit Small Farmers

Farming activity requires moving implements, fertilizer, seeds, pesticides, equipments, tools and a host of other things to and from the farm, nearly as a regular activity. Even when your farm is at c...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Ensure a Successful Letterbox Drop

With the clamour surrounding social media and digital marketing, you might be wondering why you should revert back to the older technique of a letterbox drop.When done right, a letterbox drop can be...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

What to Pack for a Tropical Vacation

Going on a vacation is one of the favourite activities for most of us. Sunny beaches and blue sea as far as your eyes can see; all you have to do is relax and enjoy your vacation to the fullest. How...

Brigitte Evans - avatar Brigitte Evans

Golden Year Guide - Preparing For Post-Retirement Travelling

Retirement is something that many of us spend most of our lives looking forward to, it is supposed to be what all that hard work and sacrifice is for. A lot of us have big plans for when we retire, ...

News Company - avatar News Company

5 Glamping Winter Getaways Perfect for this Season

Glamping, also known as “glamorous camping”, is such a huge trend right now all across the globe. Of course, this is no exception for travellers in Australia. From adorable cottages to luxurious be...

Laura Grant - avatar Laura Grant

ShowPo