Reframing Developmental Relationships

Virtually everyone in education and youth work agrees that relationships are vital for young people’s learning, growth, and thriving. Yet as a society and in communities we continually underinvest in and even undermine developmental relationships – especially when it comes to young people from marginalized communities who most need and want them.

Why the gap? And—more important—what can be done about it?

Reframing Developmental Relationships, a two-year, multi-methods study from FrameWorks Institute, commissioned by Search Institute, tackles these questions. It calls for “a profoundly different orientation toward relationships and—specifically—how our society should approach them collectively, through policies and programs.”

The report outlines seven tested recommendations for communicating developmental relationships in a way that moves the public beyond preconceptions of relationships toward new, broader understandings of—and investments in—the kinds of relationships young people need to thrive.

Reframing Developmental Relationships articulates a communication strategy with a tested name, underlying values, a multifaceted and flexible metaphor, examples of how to use the metaphor, and recommended messengers. By using these strategies, “communicators can stretch people’s thinking and push them to imagine new possibilities about relationship development between young people and adults.”

Download Resources on Reframing Developmental Relationships

Reframing Developmental Relationships: A FrameWorks MessageMemo

“They All Play a Role”: Mapping the Gaps between Expert and Public Understandings of Developmental Relationships

This qualitative study documents the communication challenges that emerge in the gap between researchers’ understanding of developmental relationships and the publics’ understandings of relationships in young people’s lives.

Reframing Developmental Relationships: A Communications Toolkit  

FrameWorks Institute and Search Institute’s researchers have developed this framing strategy—guidance on what points to emphasize and what to leave unsaid—for experts, advocates, and practitioners to make an effective case for investing in relationships.

Discover more about Developmental Relationships

Learn more about the research behind the Developmental Relationships Framework.

Take research to practice! Put developmental relationships to work at your school or organization.

Visit our shop to purchase the 20 Ways to Build Developmental Relationships with Young People poster.

About FrameWorks Institute

The FrameWorks Institute is a think tank that advances the nonprofit sector’s communications capacity by framing the public discourse about social problems. FrameWorks designs, conducts, publishes, explains, and applies communications research to prepare nonprofit organizations to expand their constituency base, build public will, and further public understanding of specific social issues—the environment, government, race, children’s issues, and health care, among others. In 2015, it was named one of nine organizations worldwide to receive the MacArthur Foundation’s Award for Creative & Effective Institutions. 

About Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI)

This study was commissioned as part of Search Institute’s national Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI) – a project that focuses on creating strategies and tools to support organizations in being more intentional and inclusive in their efforts to strengthen relationships with and among all the young people and families they serve, particularly those who have historically been marginalized in society.