Developmental Relationships Framework
The developmental relationships framework identifies five strategies to strengthen and deepen the relationships that help young people grow and thrive.
Our decades of research show us that young people’s development is rooted in their community and in their relationships. When they have high-quality, positive relationships with parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, and peers, they are more likely to develop resilience in the face of obstacles, grow, learn, and develop social-emotional skills.
But our research also shows that as many as 40 percent of young people feel lonely. Our studies and those of others also show that racial and socioeconomic equity gaps increase while academic motivation declines as students progress from elementary school through high school. That means that we all have work to do when it comes to nurturing relationships with young people and investing in strategies that deepen and strengthen them.
How We Shaped the Developmental Relationships Framework
The Developmental Relationships Framework grew out of focus groups with young people, parents, educators, educators, youth workers and others. It is the result of decades of rigorous analysis and input from millions of young people around the world. These young people helped us identify the actions that can contribute to their learning, growing, and thriving.
We believe that relationships are developmental when they help young people.
- Discover who they are.
- Develop abilities to shape their own lives.
- Learn how to engage and contribute to the world around them.
The Developmental Relationships Framework
The framework identifies five elements—with 20 specific actions—that make up developmental relationships. When young people experience these relationships in their families, schools, programs, and communities, they are more likely to be resilient in the face of challenges and grow up thriving
Show me that I matter to you.
- Be dependable—Be someone I can trust.
- Listen—Really pay attention when we are together.
- Believe in me—Make me feel known and valued.
- Be warm—Show me you enjoy being with me.
- Encourage—Praise me for my efforts and achievements.
Push me to keep getting better.
- Expect my best—Expect me to live up to my potential.
- Stretch—Push me to go further.
- Hold me accountable—Insist I take responsibility for my actions.
- Reflect on failures—Help me learn from mistakes and setbacks.
Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.
- Navigate—Guide me through hard situations and systems.
- Empower—Build my confidence to take charge of my life.
- Advocate—Stand up for me when I need it.
- Set boundaries—Put in place limits that keep me on track.
Treat me with respect and give me a say.
- Respect me—Take me seriously and treat me fairly.
- Include me—Involve me in decisions that affect me.
- Collaborate—Work with me to solve problems and reach goals.
- Let me lead—Create opportunities for me to take action and lead.
Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.
- Inspire—Inspire me to see possibilities for my future.
- Broaden horizons—Expose me to new ideas, experiences, and places.
- Connect—Introduce me to people who can help me grow.
Related Resources for School and Youth Program Staff
Relational Culture Checkup
The Relational Culture Checkup is a tool for self-reflection designed for leaders and staff to learn about the relational culture of their organization.
Activity where participants write down their strengths anonymously and then try to guess who possesses which strengths.
Approaches to Sharing Power
Ten approaches that can be integrated into classroom or program activities that build the Sharing Power element of the developmental relationships framework.
Related Resources for School and Youth Organization Leaders
A relationship-building activity where participants take turns sharing about themselves using a set of prompts tied to each color of candy they have.
Tool / Playbook
Reframing Family Engagement
A self-reflection tool from Search Institute outlining six shifts of emphasis that can energize how schools and organizations engage with families.
Activity where participants work together to construct a tower made of marshmallows and spaghetti and reflect on how they shared power in the experience.