Developmental Relationships

Everyone seems to agree that “relationships matter.” But what is it about relationships that matter? Why are some relationships transformative for young people’s development and success, while others seem to have little if any impact? How can we articulate and measure the intangible dimensions of relationships so that they become both more credible and more actionable in the realms of policy and practice?

Across the past 25 years, Search Institute and others have shown that the number and intensity of high quality relationships in young people’s lives is linked to a broad range of positive outcomes, including increased student engagement, improved academic motivation, better grades, higher aspirations for the future, civic engagement, more frequent participation in college-preparatory classes and activities, and a variety of other individual outcomes. We also know that high-quality relationships are characterized as caring, supportive, meaningful, reciprocal, and resulting in young people’s sense of agency, belonging, and competence.

Search Institute seeks to more deeply articulate and measure the malleable factors in developmental relationships across the settings of young people’s lives, and how they contribute to positive outcomes for diverse youth in different contexts. These will include young people’s relationships with parenting adults and other family members, peers, teachers, youth workers, mentors, and others.

Learn more about our work with Developmental Relationships >>

Priority Research Questions


Search Institute is launching and seeking partners to support new research and development efforts to examine the key research questions, including the following:

  • What are the components of the developmental relationships through which young people develop the psychosocial skills that are essential for success in education and in life?
  • Does the degree to which young people experience developmental relationships affect their attainment of important educational and developmental objectives and, if so, how?
  • How does the nature of developmental relationships vary for youth from different backgrounds, in different contexts, and at different phases of development?
  • What approaches are effective in increasing developmental relationships within and across settings, such as families, schools, and communities?

Download the Developmental Relationships Framework Research Update >>


Current Projects


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Research Publications


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NOTE: Many of the periodicals listed here may be downloaded or purchased through links provided. Journal articles and book chapters are available through their publishers. Most can be accessed through databases or through the publisher’s websites (often with a fee).