Dr. Sue Swearer is the Willa Cather Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has chaired Born This Way Foundation’s Research Advisory Board and led the Born Brave Experience research with assistance from Raul Palacios, Ed.S, a Doctoral Student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Born This Way Foundation’s (BTWF) goal has always been to build a kinder and braver world. Kindness is important and complex. It is an easy emotion to feel when it is happening, but harder to experience during difficult times. When we’re around people who are kind, it’s easier to be kind; however, when we’re around people who are mean or difficult, it’s more of a challenge to be kind. But, if we think about the definition of kindness, who we’re around shouldn’t matter. One definition of kindness is “voluntary, intentional behaviors that benefits another and is not motivated by external factors such as reward or punishment.” In other words, kindness is doing kind things for other people without expecting something in return.
From May 2016 to March 2017, BTWF collected survey data from nearly 2,000 young people, ages 13 to 25, using the Born Brave Experiences Survey – English, version 3.0 (BBE v3.0). The survey explored ways to increase access to and improve youth mental, physical, and emotional health; how to assess and increase personal kindness and bravery; strategies to increase social emotional learning in classrooms and community agencies that focus on youth wellness; and mechanisms for better access to mental and emotional health resources for young people.
We have been looking at interesting questions from our research to share with you. One discovery was that females reporter reported as kinder than males. We also found that kindness was associated with age. For example, older participants reported higher levels of kindness than younger participants.
The most interesting discovery, though, was that Little Monsters had higher kindness scores than participants who were not Little Monsters. We think that the Little Monster community emulates the kindness shown by Lady Gaga and BTWF.
The biggest takeaway from these findings is that it is important to practice kindness everyday—every moment. Since no one is born knowing how to be kind, teaching kindness early on in life is important for yourself, your family, your school, the people you work with, and your community! Kindness matters.