Developmental Relationships as the Active Ingredient: A Unifying Working Hypothesis of "What Works" Across Intervention Settings

University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, 400 N. Lexington Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15208, USA.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (Impact Factor: 1.36). 04/2012; 82(2):157-66. DOI: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2012.01151.x
Source: PubMed


Developmental relationships are characterized by reciprocal human interactions that embody an enduring emotional attachment, progressively more complex patterns of joint activity, and a balance of power that gradually shifts from the developed person in favor of the developing person. The working hypothesis of this article is that developmental relationships constitute the active ingredient of effective interventions serving at-risk children and youth across settings. In the absence of developmental relationships, other intervention elements yield diminished or minimal returns. Scaled-up programs and policies serving children and youth often fall short of their potential impact when their designs or implementation drift toward manipulating other "inactive" ingredients (e.g., incentive, accountability, curricula) instead of directly promoting developmental relationships. Using empirical studies as case examples, this study demonstrates that the presence or absence of developmental relationships distinguishes effective and ineffective interventions for diverse populations across developmental settings. The conclusion is that developmental relationships are the foundational metric with which to judge the quality and forecast the impact of interventions for at-risk children and youth. It is both critical and possible to give foremost considerations to whether program, practice, and policy decisions promote or hinder developmental relationships among those who are served and those who serve.

Download full-text


Available from: Megan Julian
  • Source
    • "When developmental relationships are prevalent, development is promoted, and when this type of relationship is not available or is diluted, interventions show limited effects. " — Li & Julian (2012, pp. 157, 159) Almost without exception, theories of psychological well-being include positive relationships with others as a core element of mental health and well-being. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In the midst of growing national interest in strengthening children’s “soft” or social-emotional skills as critical for learning, work, and life, this study of 1,085 parenting adults of 3 to 13 year olds from across the United States highlights the power of family relationships as a critical, but often neglected, factor in the development of character strengths in children. The study introduces Search Institute’s framework of developmental relationships, which are defined as are close connections through which young people develop the character strengths they need to grow up successfully. Among the key findings is that the quality of parent-child relationships is 10 times more powerful than demographics (race, ethnicity, family composition, and family income) in predicting whether children are developing critical character strengths they need for success in school and life. These strengths include being motivated to learn, being responsible, and caring for others.
    Full-text · Book · Oct 2015
    • "This study suggests that a model of child well-being that accounts for relational factors, as well as person and environmental factors, is potentially more useful for understanding children's social–emotional well-being. Along with other research (e.g.,Lawler, Shaver, et al., 2011;Li & Julian, 2012;McDougall, 2011), the current study highlights the importance of relationships in fostering well-being from early childhood through the school years and beyond. Ecological , relationship-based interventions that optimize a child's potential by building upon existing support structures in the child's immediate environments may be more effective than those that focus only on direct intervention with a child (McDougall, 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study examined indicators of rural children's subjective well-being and the prediction of well-being indicators from person variables as well as home, life, neighborhood, school, and peer-group contexts. Seventh-grade children (M-age = 13 years, age range = 12-14 years) in a rural Midwestern U.S. community (N = 149) completed an adapted version of an international survey measuring children's subjective well-being and ecological contexts in childhood and adolescence. Indicators of children's subjective well-being (including life satisfaction, mental health, and self-image) were significantly correlated with all home, life, neighborhood, school, and peer contexts except life stress. Regression and bootstrap analyses suggest that the strongest predictors of both life satisfaction and mental health were school satisfaction and family, teacher, and peer relationships. The strongest predictors of self-image were gender, number of residences, school satisfaction, and teacher and peer relationships. Findings suggest that a model of subjective wellbeing that accounts for relational factors, as well as person and other environmental factors, is potentially useful for understanding children's subjective well-being. Results are discussed in the context of ecological, relationship-based interventions from early childhood through school-age years. Future studies should test this model with samples diverse in child age, culture, and geographical locations.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Journal of Social Service Research
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Youth-adult partnership (Y-AP) has become a phenomenon of interest to scholars and practitioners. Despite the potential of Y-AP to promote positive youth development, increase civic engagement, and support community change, the practice remains unfamiliar to many. Although research has increased over the past decade, the construct remains vague with an insufficient grounding in developmental theory and community practice. This article seeks to address these gaps by synthesizing data and insights from the historical foundations of Y-AP, community based research, and case study. We propose Y-AP as a unifying concept, distinct from other forms of youth-adult relationships, with four core elements: authentic decision making, natural mentors, reciprocity, and community connectedness. We conclude that Y-AP functions as an active ingredient and fundamental practice for positive youth development and civic engagement. Directions for future research are offered.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · American Journal of Community Psychology
Show more