Developmental Relationships

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"In the early 2000s educational reformers across the United States sought to embrace a new Three Rs of high school focused on rigor, relevance, and relationships. More than a decade later, significant progress has been made in understanding and increasing the academic rigor that students experience in their schools, and meaningful progress has been made in strengthening the relevance of what students study. Little light has been shed and little progress has been made, however, on the third R: relationships. Search Institute will help to fill this void in our understanding and in our actions for young people in the years and decades ahead."--Kent Pekel, President and CEO, Search Institute

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What are Developmental Relationships?

Search Institute’s newest research-to-practice initiative will focus on studying and strengthening the developmental relationships that help young people succeed. A developmental relationship helps young people attain the psychological and social skills that are essential for success in education and in life. Young people can form these relationships with their parents and family members, with their friends and peers, with staff members in their schools and programs, and with caring adults in their neighborhoods and communities. Based on this new research, we will develop survey instruments to measure how young people experience developmental relationships with their parents and the adults in their schools and youth programs. We will also work with schools, programs, families, and communities to initiate and improve developmental relationships in the lives of children.

Download the Developmental Relationships Framework Research Update >>

Why Do They Matter?

Over the past two decades, researchers at Search Institute have shown that developmental relationships in young people’s lives are important. The number and intensity of developmental relationships in young people’s lives is linked to a range of positive educational outcomes. Relationships with caring adults and peers can increase student engagement and improve academic motivation. Students who experience developmental relationships:

  • get better grades,
  • have higher aspirations for the future,
  • and participate in college-preparatory activities more frequently.

But while the importance of developmental relationships is widely acknowledged, they are not widely understood.

Learn more: Research on Developmental Relationships >>

The Opportunity

We are rolling out a new initiative that will examine the presence, absence, and quality of developmental relationships in schools, programs, and communities and how these relationships effect adults' ability to prepare young people for success in some form of college, a career, and citizenship. In exploring the role that developmental relationships play in achieving those important objectives, Search Institute will join a growing community of scholars and practitioners who are working to understand the role that developmental relationships play in the success or failure of programs and interventions.

Get Involved

Are you interested in learning more about developmental relationships? Do you have suggestions or ideas you'd like to share with us? We value you input! Contact us to share your question, comment, or to request more information.