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“It’s all about relationships.” That statement has become a cliché, whether the focus is on parenting, mentoring, teaching, coaching, raising money for a cause, getting a job, or finding a partner. And the cliché has research behind it: We’ve known for decades that high-quality relationships are essential to young people’s growth, learning, and thriving—including for those young people who face serious challenges in their lives and in the world around them.
Yet, as many as 40 percent of young people feel lonely.11,26 If we say relationships really matter, how do we make them a true priority for all young people to experience? How much do we invest in high-quality relationships in our families, schools, and youth programs?
Growing evidence suggests that strategically and systematically investing in building developmental relationships can be catalytic for effective education, programs, and services for children, youth, and families.
Researchers Li and Julian wrote:
The effectiveness of child-serving programs, practices, and policies is determined first and foremost by whether they strengthen or weaken developmental relationships. . . . When developmental relationships are prevalent, development is promoted, and when this type of relationship is not available or diluted, interventions show limited effects.
To respond, we first have to ask: What makes a relationship “developmental”? In other words, what happens in relationships that contribute to learning, growing, and thriving? And how do we start doing something as nebulous as “improving relationships”?
All content on this page is adapted from "Relationships First" -Search Institute
The Framework grew out of focus groups with youth, parents, educators, youth workers, and others; a wide-ranging review of existing research; extensive analysis of existing data; input from both scholars and practitioners. It was concluded that nothing has more impact in the life of a child than positive relationships.
Young people who experience strong developmental relationships are more likely to report a wide range of social-emotional strengths and other indicators of well-being and thriving.
Young people with strong relationships are more resilient in the face of stress and trauma.
Young people do better when they experience a strong web of relationships with many people.