Promoting Supportive Relationships in Youth Programs: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective
Although research suggests that positive contact with nonparental adults is developmentally beneficial for youth, many adolescents do not have access to such relationships. It is important that adults structure existing relationships to optimize positive youth development, say these authors. Relationships with adults who support youths' needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence provide youth with scaffolding as they navigate their way through adolescence. Self-Determination Theory offers a straight-forward approach to understanding the elements of contexts that best promote the development of supportive relationships. In this paper, the authors review the literature concerning youth-adult relationships and their developmental benefits across multiple contexts, including educational settings, one-on-one mentoring, and youth programs. Then, they integrate these findings into a framework of best practices for developing and supporting positive youth relationships with adults within youth program settings. Finally, the authors offer several theory-based recommendations for youth program administrators and staff who wish to improve youth-adult relationships in their programs. Modified Author Abstract.