The Importance of Other Adults

Boys talking with basketball coach

A Stronger Web of Support

Besides their parents, kids need to have developmental relationships with other adults.  Other trustworthy adults can enhance the way we build developmental relationships within our families.

What Other Adults Offer

Relationships with other adults help young people:

  • Expand their ideas about who they might be in the future.
  • See themselves through someone else’s eyes. This helps them form a sense of themselves that is distinct from their parents.
  • Receive guidance and support that they may not be open to from their parents.3

The Value for Young People

Young people who have positive non-parents in their lives (“natural mentors”) are more likely to:

  • Be more engaged in school
  • Complete high school and go to college
  • Be more satisfied in life
  • Engage in good health behaviors
  • Engage in fewer high-risk behaviors, including drug use and violence2,3

Who Can These Adults Be

These non-parent can include:

  • Extended family members and neighbors.
  • Teachers are very important non-parent adults to kids. When kids have strong relationships with their teachers, they are more likely to adjust well in school, take part in learning, and do well in school.1
  • Religious leaders, youth program staff and volunteers, and friends’ parents.
  • Coaches, employers, mentors and other non-familiy adults. (Their specific role is not as important as the kind of relationship they form with kids.)

Connections with trustworthy, caring adults do not happen for many kids. Many kids have no positive contact with caring adults beyond parents and teachers. Parents need to help kids connect with other caring adults who can expand their horizons.

Next Steps

  • Take the quiz to explore the ways you expand possibilities in your family.
  • Learn about providing a secure base to expand possibilities.

Research Sources

1. Roorda, D. L., Koomen, H. M. Y., Split, J. L., & Oort, F. J. (2011). Teacher-child relationships and interaction processes: Effects on students’ learning behaviors and reciprocal influences between teacher and child. Review of Educational Research, 81, 493–529. doi:10.1177/1745691612459060.

2. Scales, P. C., Benson, P. L., Roehlkepartain, E. C., Hintz, N. R., Sullivan, T. K., & Mannes, M. (2004). The role of parental status and child age in the engagement of children and youth with adults outside their family. Journal of Family Issues, 25(4), 735–769. doi:10.1177/0192513X03259139

3. Schwartz, S. E. O., Chan, C. S., Rhodes, J. E., & Scales, P. C. (2013). Community developmental assets and positive youth development: The role of natural mentors. Research in Human Development, 10(2), 141–162. doi:10.1080/15427609.2013.786553