Adolescent Connectedness

Youth Connectedness Is an Important Protective Factor for Health and Well-being

Connectedness is an important protective factor for youth that can reduce the likelihood of a variety of health risk behaviors. Connectedness refers to a sense of being cared for, supported, and belonging, and can be centered on feeling connected to school, family (i.e. parents and caregivers), or other important people and organizations in their lives. Youth who feel connected at school and home are less likely to experience negative health outcomes related to sexual risk, substance use, violence, and mental health.

In addition, school connectedness (i.e. the belief by students that adults and peers in the school care about them as individuals) has been shown to have positive effects on academic achievement, including having higher grades and test scores, having better school attendance, and staying in school longer.

Adolescent Connectedness has Lasting Effects

Recent CDC findings published in Pediatricsexternal icon suggest that youth connectedness also has lasting effects. Youth who feel connected at school and at home were found to be as much as 66% less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to sexual health, substance use, violence, and mental health in adulthood.

School and Family Connections in Adolescence Linked to Positive Health Outcomes in Adulthood. Youth Experience Risks: 17 percent have seriously considered attempting suicide; 9 percent have had four or more lifetime sex partners; 14 percent have ever misused prescription pain medicine. School and family connections help protect youth. Adults who experienced strong connections as youth were 48 percent-66 percent less likely to: Have mental health issues; Experience violence; Engage in risky sexual behavior; Use substances. Schools, families, and providers can help. SCHOOLS can implement positive youth development programs. PARENTS can have frequent and open conversations. PROVIDERS can discuss relationships and school experiences.

CDC findings published in Pediatricsexternal icon suggest that youth who feel connected at home and at school were less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to mental health, violence, sexual health, and substance use in adulthood.

Youth Experience Health Risks

Among U.S. high school students who participated in the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey2:

  • 32% persistently felt sad or hopeless
  • 17% have seriously considered attempting suicide
  • 14% made a suicide plan
  • 46% did not use a condom during last sex
  • 7% were forced to have sex
  • 9% have had four or more lifetime sex partners
  • 19% have been bullied at school
  • 14% have ever misused prescription pain medicine
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Youth experience multiple health risks and those health risks can contribute to poor health outcomes in adulthood. Therefore, it’s important that we also promote protective factors that can reduce health risks, both during the adolescent years and long term.1

Recommendations for Schools, Families, and Healthcare Providers

There are concrete steps schools, families, and healthcare providers can take to promote connectedness among youth.

Schools Can:
  • Provide professional development on classroom management. Reinforcing positive behavior through praise and establishing rules, routines, and expectations are classroom management techniques that promote higher levels of school connectedness.
  • Support student led-clubs at school. These clubs create a safe space for students to socialize, support each other, and connect with supportive school staff.
  • Facilitate positive youth development activities. Implementing mentoring programs, providing opportunities to volunteer in the community; or connecting students to community-based programs can provide youth with a network of supportive adults.
  • Provide parents and families with resources that support positive parenting practices such as open, honest communication and parental supervision.
Families and Caregivers Can:
  • Communicate openly and honestly, including about their values.
  • Supervise their adolescent to facilitate healthy decision-making.
  • Spend time with their adolescent enjoying shared activities.
  • Become engaged in school and help with homework.
  • Volunteer at their adolescent’s school.
  • Communicate regularly with teachers and administrators.
Healthcare Providers Can:
  • Ask adolescents about family relationships and school experiences as a part of routine health screenings.
  • Encourage positive parenting practices.
  • Engage parents in discussions about how to connect with their adolescents, communicate effectively, and monitor activities and health behaviors.
  • Educate parents and youth about adolescent development and health risks.

What CDC is Doing

CDC Support Increases Implementation of Effective Interventions

CDC works with other federal agencies, national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), education agencies, health organizations, and youth-serving organizations to promote connectedness and reduce negative health outcomes by:

  • Funding education agencies to increase school and family connectedness.
  • Supporting schools in the implementation of connectedness strategies, policies, and activities.
  • Providing tools and resources for schools and families to help promote the importance of family and school connectedness.
References
  1. Steiner RJ, Sheremenko G, Lesesne C, et al. Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomesexternal iconPediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20183766
  2. Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., et al. (2018). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2017MMWR Surveillance Summary, 67(8), 1-479.