Why are so many youth from marginalized communities still not succeeding? Policy makers, practitioners, funders and researchers from a range of organizations are asking that question. Their best efforts to adopt research-based programs, train staff, and use data to measure progress but most youth interventions have not led to improved outcomes. Something is missing.

Junlei Li and Megan Julian argued in 2012 that the missing ingredient is “developmental relationships.” They compared developmental relationships in youth and student programming to fluoride in toothpaste. Although consumers and marketers focus primarily on flashier elements of color, flavor additives, and packaging design, it is the less obvious but critically important fluoride that makes the difference and prevents cavities. Similarly, the critical role developmental relationships play in the lives of young people can often be overlooked as more attention is paid to performance incentives and programs.

developmental relationships framework

Search Institute is in the midst of a multi-year effort to study and strengthen developmental relationships in young people’s lives. Our most recent publication, “Finding the Fluoride: Examining How and Why Developmental Relationships Are the Active Ingredient in Interventions That Work,” is a comprehensive summary of what we have learned thus far.

We invite you to download it today.

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