Family Relationships are Key to Kids’ Character Strengths


Don't Forget the Families Report CoverWhat families do together to build strong relationships in their everyday lives is the foundation for children developing the character strengths they need for success in school, work, and life, according to a new national study from Search Institute.

Titled Don’t Forget the Families, the study of 1,085 parenting adults of 3- to 13-year-olds found 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 to be their best in school and in life. These strengths include being motivated to learn, being responsible, and caring for others.

Other Key Findings

In addition to highlighting the power of relationships, the study also found the following:

  1. Relationships are most powerful when they involve five essential actions: Expressing care, challenging growth, providing support, sharing power, and expanding possibilities.
  2. Parents from many different backgrounds are most likely to report expressing care, challenging growth, and providing support in their relationships with their kids.
  3. Sharing power was most consistently and most strongly associated with a range of important character strengths. However, it is one of the least common things parents do.

Through all the specific findings, the study’s core message is simple: One of the most powerful things parents in all circumstances and from all backgrounds can do for children and youth is to build and maintain a strong relationship with them. That is not always easy, but intentional investment in relationships with their kids is one of the most important ways parents help their children develop the strengths they need to be their best in school and life.

Practical Tools

The report includes concrete ideas and activities that families can use to explore developmental relationships. In addition, Search Institute’s website for families, provides more than 100 family activities based on the Developmental Relationships Framework.

More Information

Visit the Families page on our Search Institute website to download the Don't Forget the Families full report, a summary of the findings, a reproducible booklet of relationship building activities for families, and more study resources.