Our Research: Measuring Intangible Strengths in Kids’ Lives

Many of the most important things in young people’s lives are difficult to measure. Search Institute has a five-decade legacy of examining and making concrete key—but sometimes hidden—dimensions of development, including:

  • Personal strengths, skills, attitudes, and values;
  • Community, school, and family supports and developmental relationships;
  • Non-cognitive skills and socio-emotional traits; and
  • Personal sparks, passions, and purpose.

Connecting to Priorities and Impact

A critical element in this research is to link these supports, strengths, and skills—sometimes called non-cognitive factors—to critical priorities in society, including educational success, prevention of high-risk behaviors, and readiness for diverse options for college, careers, and citizenship that align with a young person’s capacities, opportunities, passions, and purpose. We continue to seek opportunities to bolster the evidence that reinforces these associations and areas of impact.

Frameworks for Understanding, Planning, and Action

In addition to contributing to scientific understanding of young people’s lives, Search Institute organizes our research into frameworks that help practitioners, policy makers, and the public intentionally focus on and measure these critical dimensions of young people’s lives in order to improve well-being and strengthen efforts to increase young people’s successful development.

The most prominent example of Search Institute’s approach is the framework of Developmental Assets, a framework of strengths and supports that has been measured and used with millions of young people around the world. While continuing to advance this research, we also continually delve into related dimensions to broaden and deepen our understanding of young people’s lives—and how many factors in themselves and their contexts contribute or thwart health development.

Approaches and Partnerships

Search Institute brings a variety of research methods to addressing core research questions, including both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Most of our research is conducted with partners in schools, organizations, and collaborations at the local, state, national, or international levels. If you are interested in engaging Search Institute as a research partner, contact Eugene C. Roehlkepartain to explore possibilities.

For over half a century, Search Institute has excelled at conducting and disseminating its research, and at catalyzing, celebrating and supporting a multitude of creative ways that organizations and communities have applied it to achieve youth development goals. However, more than ever before, schools and youth programs are increasingly held accountable for achieving outcomes that are beyond the means of any single organization to attain. In response, Search Institute is enhancing its capacity not just to conduct and disseminate its research, but to help organizations and coalitions use local research findings to plan, implement, and monitor meaningful change and improvement strategies. To learn more, visit our consulting services page.

Current Research Focus Areas

Here are Search Institute’s research and development emphases. Within each, you will find current projects and a collection of Search Institute related research publications.