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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
ing essential element here, it consists of attentiveness and responsiveness to adolescents’ subjective worlds.
The largest body of research on relationships with adults focuses on the qualities of parents that are associated with positive development. Longitudinal studies consistently show that parental support is associated with positive school motivation (Clark, 1983; Eccles et al., 1992; Epstein and Dauber, 1991; Eccles and Harold, 1996; Henderson and Berla, 1994; Booth and Dunn, 1996; Marjoribanks, 1979), better mental health, and lower rates of drinking, drug use, delinquency, and school misconduct (Furstenberg et al., 1999; Grotevant, 1998; Steinberg, 2000). Similar findings are suggested for feeling connected to a parent or parents (Blum and Rinehart, 1997) and having good communication (Brooks-Gunn and Paikoff, 1993; Steinberg, 2000). Parental support provides a buffer against the effects of negative racial stereotypes, and parental guidance promotes cultural pride (Comer, 1988; Fisher et al., 1998; Ford and Harris, 1996; Romo and Falbo, 1996). On the negative side, ambiguous and insecure relationships with parents (e.g., when there is fear of rejection as well as substantial disruptions in parenting relationships) are associated with adolescent involvement in problem behaviors.
Similar findings show the importance of supportive relationships with adults in other settings. In the classroom, positive support from teachers is related to greater educational success, and when teachers have positive expectations for students, they do better (Comer, 1988; Eccles et al., 1998; Ford, 1996; Ferguson, 1998; Jackson and Davis, 2000; Lee and Smith, 1993; Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968). In addition, when students care about what teachers think and expect of them, they do better both academically and socially and care more about doing well in school (Jackson and Davis, 2000). The importance of one caring adult at school has also been documented by studies of resilience and of the role of school advisors (Masten, 1994; Galassi et al., 1997). In sports programs, youth develop greater self-esteem and lower anxiety when coaches focus on the development of skills rather than winning (Seefeldt et al., 1995; Roberts and Treasure, 1992). For example, Smoll et al. (1993) found that a three-hour intervention that trained coaches to be emotionally supportive was effective in increasing the self-esteem of their Little League players. Similarly, an evaluation of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, in which a relationship with an adult is the heart of the program, showed that adolescent outcomes were especially positive for mentors who developed “youth-centered” relationships with adolescent mentees, rather than more controlling relationships (Grossman and