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.
The organization’s first book, What Youth Are Thinking was published. It would be the first of a long line of youth-focused books and materials published by Search Institute.
The organization was incorporated as an independent non-profit, and gains credibility and support from the U.S. government on national youth projects.
A Study of Generations was published, a landmark examination of beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors of 5,000 Lutherans between ages 15 and 65. Time magazine called it “an assured classic.”
Five Cries of Youth was released, challenging the idea of a “generation gap” between the values and beliefs between youth and adults.
The Five Cries of Parents was released, offering advice about discipline, understanding, trust, moral behavior, value, dealing with feelings of failure, and seeking outside help.
Peter L. Benson, who joined Search Institute as research director in 1978, became the organization’s second president, with the retirement of Merton Strommen. He remained in that role until his death in 2011.
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.
What Kids Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids was published by Free Spirit Publishing. It offered common-sense suggestions for building each of the 40 Developmental Assets. Through several editions across 23 years, it sold more than 650,000 copies.
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.
All Kids Are Our Kids: What Communities Must Do to Raise Caring and Responsible Children and Adolescents, by Peter L. Benson, was published, offering a comprehensive introduction to the theory and strategies of Developmental Assets and asset-building communities.
Developmental Assets: A Synthesis of the Scientific Research on Adolescent Development, by Peter C. Scales and Nancy Leffert, was published, providing the comprehensive literature review that undergirds the Developmental Assets. It was updated in 2004.
Great Places to Learn: Creating Asset-Building Schools That Help Students Succeed was published (along with training for educators) to launch Search Institute’s intentional support for schools to build assets.
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.
Developmental Assets Profile (DAP) is released, providing organizations, schools, and coalitions with insights into the internal strengths and external supports that influence a youth’s success in school and in life.
MVParent.com, an online resource for parents and families, is launched. The name was later changed to ParentFurther.com in 2010.
The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence was published, breaking new ground by articulating knowledge in the area of childhood and adolescent spiritual development.
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.
Sparks: How Parents Can Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers, by Peter L. Benson, was published, introducing the concept of sparks. Sparks are deep interests or passions that give young people a sense of purpose, energy, and joy in life.
Kent Pekel becomes president and CEO of Search Institute.
Search Institute focuses on developmental relationships with its research and releases the first developmental relationships framework.
Don’t Forget the Families is released, providing the first national portrait of developmental relationships in families.
REACH is released to address decreasing student motivation in schools. It examines social and emotional factors such as Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognition, and Heart along with other key variables that affect students motivation and engagement.
The Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI) is launched with five partners. It focuses on developing innovative strategies to strengthen developmental relationships with and among marginalized young people and families.
Keep Connected is released as a resource to help parents and youth (age 10-14) explore and strengthen their relationships as they prepare for the changes that come with the teen years.