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Nurturing Prosociality through Volunteering: A Path to Mental Resilience for Today's Youth



Recent findings by the University of Cambridge have once again highlighted the crucial role of 'prosociality'—the inclination to be kind, empathetic, and helpful—in childhood and adolescent development. Their study, which analysed data from 10,703 individuals born between 2000 and 2002, made a compelling case for how a close and loving bond with parents during early years can significantly improve a child's mental health and prosocial behaviour later in life. While parental influence is undeniably vital, this article aims to explore another avenue to cultivate prosociality in children: volunteering.

The Connection Between Prosociality and Volunteering


The study led by Ioannis Katsantonis and Ros McLellan from Cambridge’s faculty of education outlined that children with high levels of prosociality generally tend to display fewer mental health issues. It emphasises the importance of teaching values like empathy, kindness, and helpfulness from a young age. Volunteering serves as an optimal platform for imparting these lessons.


According to a 2018 report by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), young people in the UK who engage in volunteering activities are more likely to develop strong social bonds and better emotional well-being compared to those who don't. The act of volunteering often involves working in teams, understanding the needs of others, and learning the significance of contribution, all of which are conducive to prosocial behaviour.

Policy Implications


The Cambridge study called for policies that assist parents in spending quality time with their children. While policy interventions are necessary, volunteering can be a complementary strategy that doesn't require legislative changes to implement. Schools and community organisations can make it easier for children to participate in various forms of service, thus creating a more prosocial and mentally resilient generation.

Real-World Impact


The benefits of volunteering aren't theoretical. Schools that have integrated volunteering into their curricula have seen positive results. The benefits include not only improved social skills but also a decrease in symptoms related to mental health problems, like anxiety and depression, consistent with the findings from the Cambridge study.


While the importance of a strong parent-child bond cannot be overstated, the fostering of prosociality and mental resilience need not be restricted to familial settings. Volunteering offers a valuable, real-world platform for young people to practice kindness, develop empathy, and build a robust emotional foundation that will serve them and their communities well into the future.


By acknowledging the potential of volunteering as a path to prosocial behaviour, we can contribute to shaping a generation that is not just mentally resilient but also more inclined to act positively towards others.


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