Interactions Between 93 Variables Influencing Social Relationships Among Young People

Team from Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Krems develops first integrated model of supportive peer relationships worldwide
By: Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences
KREMS, Austria - Aug. 20, 2021 - PRLog -- How supportive social relationships between adolescents affect their social and emotional development has been captured for the first time in an integrative model. The researchers who developed the model analysed and evaluated data from a total of 364 studies on peer relationships. The team from Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Krems (KL Krems) succeeded in identifying 93 variables which have a significant influence on social wellbeing. Among these factors, identity and social-emotional skills are of central importance.

Adolescents are shifters between worlds: the adult world and that of their peers. The latter is less controlled and free from the norms of grown-ups. As a result, peer relationships play a crucial role during childhood and adolescence. But a model that relates the forces at work there and explains their influence on an individual´s development has been lacking so far. Now, the research group D.O.T. (Die offene Tür) at KL Krems has succeeded in presenting such a model as part of a comprehensive project.

Peers, Buddies, Best Friends

Supportive peer relationships are defined as relationships that have a particularly high quality for the individual and that have a protective function. They contribute significantly to self-perception, the development of social skills and academic performance. A lack of supportive peer relationships can lead to social withdrawal, risk-taking behaviours, as well as long-term mental health consequences. "In view of the huge significance of peer relationships for young peoples' development, it is surprising that there has not yet been a model that describes the interactions of the various influences and their effects on children and adolescents which in turn could have formed the basis for therapeutic interventions and for research," explained Dr. Beate Schrank, head of the D.O.T. research group at KL Krems. This is precisely the model she has now developed with her colleagues. To do so, the team analyzed 364 studies from the last 20 years in eight different languages that dealt with peer relations.

"The model we have now put forward covers the links between 93 variables," elaborates Dr. Marija Mitic, lead author of the study, which has now been published in an international journal. "These factors relate to individuals on the one hand, and their environments on the other." Among the factors related to the individual, "identity" and "social-emotional competencies" stood out in importance. Environmental factors included in the model were primarily peers, school, family, and neighborhood. In this context, the model identified the school as an essential place for any influence.

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