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Family and Human Development

 
 

Subject Areas

 
 

Helping Teens Develop Healthy Social Relationships

 
Parents - Teens' relationships with their parents are strongly associated with teens' healthy social development. For example, parent/child relationship is associated with the development of social skills such as conflict resolution and intimacy. Good parent/child relationships also appear to influence the development of other social skills such as relationships with friends and romantic partners. It also affects adolescents' psychological and psychosocial development.

As adolescents mature, their social skills are called upon to form and maintain relationships. The formation and maintenance of these relationships lead to psychological health, improved academic performance, and success in relationships as adults. On the contrary, the absence of these quality relationships is associated with negative outcomes such as delinquency and psychological problems.

Grandparents and Other Adult Family Members - Grandparents may serve as a source of support and influence, as well as provide information about family history and culture. They can bridge the generation gap which so often occurs between older individuals and the young.

Siblings -
Interactions with siblings can influence adolescents' relationship styles and whether they engage in delinquent behaviors. Good sibling ties can help protect teens from family stress and may enhance cognitive development. So, allow them to "spar" "squabble" in a healthy manner
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Relationship with Adults outside the Family -
Teens' relationship with adults outside their families can promote their social development. Respected older adults can teach social skills, model behavior, give positive or negative reinforcement, and introduce adolescents to diverse social interactions and contexts. These relationships can provide advice, emotional support, companionship, opportunities for socialization, and real-life examples of positive social relationships. Conversely, negative adult relationships can provide teens with negative social relationships.

Teens who have friendships with adults outside their families, feel supported, are more social and less depressed. They also get along better with their parents. One of the most important factors is that the adults are additional figures in the teens' lives with whom he or she can establish a secure emotional bond. Such bonds foster better skills overall through the development of trust, and self-esteem.

Relationship with Peers -
Adolescents' friendships with their peers can promote social skills. Through these relationships, teens develop constructive interpersonal skills, independence, positive mental health, and self-confidence. These interactions further help teens learn to make joint decisions, express empathy, and deepen their perspectives. Positive peer relationships seem to discourage aggression, emotional distress, and antisocial behaviors.

Source: Hair, E.C., Jager, J., and Garrett, S.B. (2002) Helping Teens Develop Healthy Social Skills and Relationships: What the Research Shows about Navigating Adolescence. Child Trends Research Briefs.