Connectedness in the lives of children and adolescents: a call for greater conceptual clarity

J Adolesc Health. 2008 Sep;43(3):209-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.01.012. Epub 2008 May 2.


Studies of the role of connectedness in the health and development of children and adolescents are accumulating rapidly. Although findings are uniformly consistent in documenting its correlation with a host of health indicators, the construct is in need of substantial conceptual clarification to maximize its research and applied utility. Current conceptualizations and operationalizations inconsistently span a wide spectrum of varied elements of social experience--including the quality of a relationship, the degree of liking an environment or relationship, the quality of performance in an environment or relationship, the possession of feelings or attitude states, and a combination of states and the behaviors that antecede them--resulting in an ability to adequately understand what the construct is and how, why, and when it is most protective. This paper documents this variability in an effort to sensitize researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to the complexity of the construct. It further describes one ongoing, multicultural research project that is currently informing international health initiatives as an illustration of one approach to addressing the complexity with goals of precision, parsimony, cultural sensitivity, and applied utility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male