Learn more about Search Institute, our history, and what we’ve discovered along the way.
The story of Search Institute began in 1958. Search Institute’s founder, Merton Strommen, a young youth director, was asked to develop a survey for his doctoral dissertation to understand the concerns and needs of young people in a newly merging Lutheran denomination. The resulting survey was administered to 2,000 youth and 2,000 adults. It led to the establishment of Lutheran Youth Research in 1960 to continue scientific research on youth in religious institutions. The organization’s name evolved until it became Search Institute in 1977, reflecting a broadened research agenda.
Human Sexuality: Values & Choices was published as a comprehensive, values-based sexuality education curriculum for grades six to eight. It was designed to reduce teenage pregnancy by promoting seven core values that support sexual responsibility and healthy relationships: equality, self-control, promise-keeping, responsibility, respect, honesty, and social justice. By 1990, it was being used in 1,000 middle schools across the United States.
The Quicksilver Years: The Hopes and Fears of Early Adolescence was published, one of the pioneering studies that highlighted the critical transition between ages 10 and 15. It involved more than 8,000 youth and 10,000 parents and included partnerships with 13 national educational, youth development, and religious organizations.
The Troubled Journey: A Portrait of 6th to 12th-Grade Youth, introduced the Developmental Assets framework, which integrates insights from fields of prevention, resilience, and youth development to identify critical relationships, opportunities, and personal strengths young people need to thrive. Since that time, studies of Developmental Assets have been conducted with about 6 million young people across the United States and around the world.
Search Institute launched the national Healthy Communities • Healthy Youth initiative. It motivated and equipped individuals, families, organizations, and communities to work together to build Developmental Assets. Over the next decade, more than 1,000 communities across the United States formed cross-sector coalitions and linked as a network as part of this initiative.
Grading Grown-Ups: American Adults Report on their Real Relationships with Youth was published, examining the social norms of adult-youth relationships. Although adults say that positive connections with children and youth are important, the study found that these connections did not regularity or consistency occur.
The Developmental Assets Profile was adapted, translated, and pilot tested in the Philippines, its first use outside of the United States. Since then, Search Institute has worked with a number of international partners to contextualize the DAP for use in more than 30 countries and more than 30 languages.