Developmental Relationships

Helping Young People Be and Become Their Best Selves

Relationships are critical to young people’s development. They are also “active ingredients” in schools, programs, and other services that have an impact on young people’s lives. But too often we see relationships as too soft or too amorphous or too time-consuming or too idiosyncratic to be the foundation for intentional planning, measurement, and learning.

Search Institute’s current research focuses on articulating what young people need in developmental relationships in order to thrive. These are trustworthy, purposeful relationships that help young people . . .

  • Discover who they are;
  • Cultivate the abilities needed for them to shape their own lives; and
  • Learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them.


Drawing on research and the experiences shared directly by young people and adults across the United States, Search Institute has created the Developmental Relationships Framework, which is the basis for ongoing research, action-learning partnerships, and available tools.

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