The Benefits of Being Kind : A Proposed Program Promoting Prosocial Behavior in Low-income Preschools
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Kindness is much more powerful than one might initially think. It is a form of prosocial behavior, which is essential to both physical and mental success. These behaviors positively affect countless realms of life, including protection against stress and increased happiness. Though it is an innate drive, certain environmental and personal characteristics are necessary for its full development. These conditions can be greatly affected by one’s socioeconomic status—with prevalent chronic stress and limited resources, low-income individuals are at greater risk for antisocial behavior. The consequent over-activity of the sympathetic nervous system blocks many of the abilities for social engagement. Preschool aged low-income children are at particular risk, as those early years are a sensitive period in the development of social skills, amongst others. Because existing methods of promoting prosocial behavior fail to address the unique circumstances of low-income children, the present proposed study aims to fill these gaps and provide much needed support and tools to low-income preschoolers. The suggested method for promoting such behavior is a three-week after-school theater program. Participants will be recruited from a Head Start program in Chicago and will range from ages four to five. Participants will either remain in the existing after-school program or partake in the novel theater program that specifically focuses on developing prosocial skills. In the program, children will work together to create a play. Importantly, particular activities will be designed to decrease levels of stress, including meditation. Both before and after the programs, peer and teacher-reported measures of prosocial behavior will be taken. It is expected that children who participated in the novel program will demonstrate greater gains in prosocial behavior than those in the pre-existing program.