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Research on positive youth development at the intersection of foundational relationships and equity.

For more than 60 years, Search Institute research has been used the world over to strengthen young people’s relationships and help them thrive.

Multi-Method, Rigorous Approach

We use multiple methods and rigorous approaches in our research design, to understand and promote positive youth development at the intersection of foundational relationships and equity. Our strength lies in our strong research team with diverse skills and the deep well of qualitative and quantitative tools that we tap to achieve our research objectives.

  • We seek to discover what young people need to succeed—and how they contribute to their communities and the world. We want to understand the people and places that shape who they are and the opportunities they have to learn, grow, and thrive.

  • We anchor our research in positive youth development approaches, drawing from several disciplines, including child development, family systems, prevention science, social learning, social capital, and community development.

  • We see strengths in young people, their families, and their communities as critical resources for overcoming the inequities, traumas, injustices, and other challenges they face and for creating a more just world.


Search Institute’s team of developmental psychologists, applied research scientists, fellows, scholars, and seasoned educators possesses a wealth of experience and expertise in developmental theory, positive youth development, and prevention science. We believe that research needs to be integrated into practice, and through research-to-practice partnerships with youth-serving organizations, our team is creating innovative partnerships, tools, and resources that are respected and implemented throughout the world.

Learn more about Search Institute Practical Solutions

After decades of forming hypotheses, conducting surveys, crafting and rewriting definitions, analyzing data, and writing journal articles, Search Institute researchers and practitioners have arrived at a surprisingly simple conclusion: nothing—nothing—has more impact in the life of a child than positive relationships.

Peter L. Benson

Former Search Institute President and CEO (2010)


We don’t just study developmental relationships: We identify what is needed to form and strengthen them. The foundation of our work in schools, programs and communities is driven by the developmental relationships framework.

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Researchers, scholars, organizations, schools, and coalitions look to Search Institute reports, peer reviews, and journal articles to understand how solid research leads to better outcomes for young people, and our research-to-practice is used the world over by practitioners and leaders seeking to understand and strengthen their relationships with young people.

Our publications are helping chart a course for positive youth development.