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.
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 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey2:
- 37% persistently felt sad or hopeless
- 19% have seriously considered attempting suicide
- 16% made a suicide plan
- 9% have attempted suicide
- 46% did not use a condom during last sex
- 7% were forced to have sex
- 8% have had four or more lifetime sex partners
- 19% have been bullied at school
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.
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.
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.
- Fostering School Connectedness: Information for School Districts and School Administrators
- Fostering School Connectedness: Information for Teachers and Other School Staff
- Helping Your Child Feel Connected to School: Information for Parents and Families
- School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth pdf icon[PDF – 1,011 KB]
- Fostering School Connectedness: Staff Development Program Facilitator’s Guide pdf icon[PDF – 4 MB]
- Helping Your Child Feel Connected to School: Information for Parents and Families pdf icon[PDF – 1 MB]
- Positive Parenting Practices
- Promoting Parent Engagement: Information for School Districts and School Administrators
- Promoting Parent Engagement: Information for Teachers and Other School Staff
- Ways to Engage Your Child’s School: Information for Parents and Families
- Monitoring Your Teens Activities What Parents and Families Should Know
- Talking to Your Teens about Sex: Going Beyond “the Talk”
- Teen Health Services and One on One time with a Healthcare Provider: An Infobrief for Parents pdf icon[PDF – 310 KB]
- Steiner RJ, Sheremenko G, Lesesne C, et al. Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomesexternal icon. Pediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20183766
- CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2019. MMWR Suppl 2020;69(1):1-83.