The Research Behind ParentFurther

The Foundation of ParentFurther

When family relationships are stronger, young people do better. When young people do better, family life is enriched. That is the heart of ParentFurther.

ParentFurther is based on extensive research on children, youth, and families by Search Institute and others. This research bridges research in child and youth development, education, and family development. Each theme on the site has a “Learn About It” page with research on that topic. The four areas of research that most inform this website are:

Developmental Relationships

Every parent can build the kind of relationships that helps a child thrive in life. Parents do this through the everyday ways they interact with, care for, and invest in family relationships.

Family relationships have a powerful influence on young people’s development. Search Institute describes these transformative interactions as developmental relationships. Our working definition of a developmental relationship is:

A close connection through which a young person develops the desire and the capacity to thrive in life.

Search Institute created the framework of developmental relationships through reviews of scientific studies, focus groups with youth, parents, educators, and youth workers, and analysis of large datasets from youth surveys. The framework includes five key strategies that are part of a developmental relationship:

  • Express Care
  • Challenge Growth
  • Provide Support
  • Share Power
  • Expand Possibilities

The first national study of developmental relationships, sponsored by Disney, finds significant strength in families with 3 to 13 year olds. However, the study found important gaps (particularly in sharing power and expanding possibilities). The study will be released in 2015. Future research will examine developmental relationships in families with teenagers. Developmental relationships with other significant people in kids’ lives, including teachers, nonparent adults, and peers, will also be researched.

For more information on Search Institute’s research on developmental relationships, visit the website.

Family Strengths

Developmental relationships between parents and their children are the heart of family strengths. Other strengths include shared family meals, rituals and routines, and how families adapt to changes. How the family is supported by and contributes to its community is also a strength. Many of these strengths are addressed throughout ParentFurther. Search Institute research has shown that families across many demographic differences have similar levels of family strengths. These strengths contribute to child and youth well-being and resilience, health behaviors, and civic engagement.

For more information on Search Institute’s research on family strengths, visit the website.

Thriving and Perseverance

At ParentFurther, we want kids not just to survive, but to thrive. We want to help them to persist and be resilient through distractions and difficulties to reach their goals and dreams. We want them to have a sense of joy, meaning, hope, and purpose. We want them to know that their life matters, both now and in the future.

When children develop these internal character strengths, they’re more likely to achieve their goals and be prepared for learning after high school. These character strengths help children grow into adults who are productive workers and leaders who contribute to their communities.

Since the early 2000s, Search Institute has studied the skills, attitudes, and supports that youth need to thrive, be resilient, and keep going when it’s tough. These studies show that young people benefit from internal attitudes, values, and mindsets that fuel optimal growth, learning, and development. Externally, they benefit from people who support, challenge, and inspire them to flourish.

For more information on Search Institute’s research on thriving and perseverance, visit the website.

Developmental Assets

Developmental Assets help children grow into caring, engaged, and responsible adults. Developmental Assets include the internal character strengths and commitments young people need as well as the external supports and opportunities they need from their families, schools, organizations, and communities.

Search Institute introduced the framework in 1990 and, since then, has studied developmental assets in more that 5 million youth across North America and around the world. The approach focuses on young people’s strengths and working across the many parts of their lives to support their growth and successful development. Hundreds of schools, coalitions, and other organizations have used the developmental assets as a guiding framework for their youth development efforts.

From the beginning, Search Institute has recognized that Developmental Assets are best built through relationships. Therefore, ParentFurther focuses on the specific qualities of relationships in families that contribute to development, including many relational strategies and practices that strengthen young people’s base of both external and internal assets.

For more information on Developmental Assets research, visit Search Institute’s website.