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What We Know

Relationships are paramount to human development. Adolescence is a unique window of opportunity for learning about relationships because of the social, biological and neurodevelopmental transitions occurring during puberty. Exploring how, when and with whom youth develop relationships is important for creating a strengths-based approach to supporting healthy adolescent decision-making and outcomes.

Explore articles on the research that contributes to what we know about young people’s relationships with their peers, romantic partners, parents and other important adults.

Peer Relationships | Youth-Adult Relationships | Romantic Relationships

What We Know About Peer Relationships

Beginning with puberty, young people spend increasingly more time with peers. Both platonic and romantic peers have been found to significantly influence teens’ attitudes and behaviors around dating, relationships, and sex. For example, neuroscience research suggests that peers may increase risk-taking among youth because the emotional rewards from risk are heightened when other young people are around. Though there is less research in this area, peers may also support and influence positive relationship trajectories.

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What We Know About Youth-Adult Relationships

Adolescents thrive when they have at least one strong, sustained relationship with a significant adult, as well as a network of adult support across contexts, including in schools and the community. The quality of adult-child relationships influences young people’s behaviors and attitudes about other social relationships and about their health and behaviors. Through scaffolding and other techniques, parents and other trusted adults can support youth in exploring positive, novel growth experiences, while promoting social and emotional learning.

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What We Know About Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationship patterns learned in adolescence play a critical role in development and skill building, and lay the foundation for adult relationships. By middle adolescence, most young people have been in at least one romantic relationship, a context in which most sexual behavior occurs. There is limited research in romantic adolescent relationships but exciting questions about the influence of relationship timing, quality and context and young people’s development and health.

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