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05-12-2020 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 1/2021

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1/2021

Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial that Altruism Moderates the Effect of Prosocial Acts on Adolescent Well-being

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 1/2021
Sarah M. Tashjian, Danny Rahal, Maira Karan, Naomi Eisenberger, Adriana Galván, Steve W. Cole, Andrew J. Fuligni
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These authors contributed equally: Sarah M. Tashjian, Danny Rahal

Supplementary information

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10964-020-01362-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Despite growing public and scientific interest in the positive benefits of prosociality, there has been little research on the causal effects of performing kind acts for others on psychological well-being during adolescence. Developmental changes during adolescence, such as greater perspective taking, can promote prosociality. It was hypothesized that performing kind acts for others would improve adolescent well-being (positive and negative affect, perceived stress) and increase prosocial giving. As part of a randomized controlled trial, 97 adolescents (Mage = 16.224, SD = 0.816, range 14–17; 53.608% female) were assigned to either perform kind acts for others (Kindness to Others, N = 33), perform kind acts for themselves (Kindness to Self, N = 34), or report on daily activities (Daily Report, N = 30) three times per week for four weeks. Well-being factors were measured weekly and giving was tested post-intervention. Overall, changes over time in well-being did not differ across conditions. However, altruism emerged as a significant moderator such that altruistic adolescents in the Kindness to Others condition showed increased positive affect, decreased negative affect, and decreased stress. Increased positive affect was also linked to greater prosocial giving for Kindness to Others adolescents. These findings identify individual differences that may shape the effects of doing kind acts for others on well-being during adolescence.

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