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Teacher Relatedness Helps Adolescents

Relatedness is the felt sense of closeness and of being valued by another individual. Relatedness is determined, in part, by the security youth experienced in early caregiver-child relationships, and relatedness predicts the degree to which youth will seek interpersonal connection in later relationships with peers, friends, and teachers (Kuperminc, Blatt, & Leadbeater, 1997). Hagerty et al. (1993) suggest that relatedness is a “functional, behavioral system rooted in early attachment behaviors and patterns” such that “affiliation or exploration are activated only after the attachment behavioral system" (p. 292). Breaks in relatedness, such as through forced separations, undermine connectedness by lessening youths’ willingness to invest time and energy in relationships with others (Richters & Martinez, 1993; Kuperminc et al., 1997). For example, Midgley, Feldlauffer, and Eccles (1989) reported that students who moved from elementary classrooms where they experienced high teacher support to middle school classrooms where they perceived less teacher support showed decreases in their interest in learning. In short, undermined relatedness creates a lapse in connectedness. When teachers do not provide consistent sources of empathy, praise, and attention, as well as a clear, consistent structure, youth will become less involved in school and will become less inclined to establish conventional school-based relationships (van Aken & Asendorpf, 1997).

When relatedness occurs in groups of people or in defined contexts, the result is the experience of belonging. Belonging is of paramount importance to adolescents. The need to belong is defined, not as the need to be the passive recipient of supportive relationships, but as the need for “frequent [positive and pleasing] interaction plus persistent caring” (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Hagerty et al. (1993) describe connectedness to others, as well as to organizations and their activities, as a reciprocation of experienced belonging and relatedness that has, directly or indirectly, primary attachment relationships at its source. How accepted and valued a youth feels by a particular group, shapes how connected—involved and concerned—that youth will be with people and activities in that organization. This is because youth confirm and acknowledge their experience of belonging by becoming connected through increased interaction and caring for other people and places.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. IINII has extensive experience in building and using an Indigenous research paradigm.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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