Children with a strong sense of connectedness still experience the normal ups and downs of peer relationships, but they have at least one close friend and begin to value quality over quantity of friendships. Thriving children know that there are adults in their lives – family at home and non-family members in school or the community – who care about them, believe they will be a success and really listen to them.
Connectedness to adults at school has been shown to be one of the strongest predictors of overall well-being. These connections are fostered by taking time to get to know a student – even brief interactions are meaningful if genuine.
Measures of connectedness
The MDI asks children to provide information on their relationships with both adults and peers in their lives.
See theTechnical Guide for the list of questions for all dimensions and additional detail on scoring the MDI.
Relationships with Adults
Children who feel connected to an adult (family member, teacher, neighbour) they admire and spend time with report higher self-esteem and greater life satisfaction and are less likely to engage in risky behaviours. Teachers, principals and school staff are in a unique position to form meaningful bonds with children as they spend a good part of the day together.
A healthy relationship with a parent or caregiver at home is also critical for development, serving as a model for all relationships throughout their lives. Connectedness at home happens with emotional closeness: being available, showing interest in children’s lives, participating in shared activities and spending one-on-one time together.
In Grade 7, the MDI also asks students to choose how they define what makes an adult at school important to them.
Relationships with Peers
Peers begin to have a stronger influence on well-being in the middle years. During this important phase of development, children need to experience a sense of acceptance and feel they have friends they can count on. Spending time with friends helps children develop interpersonal skills like cooperation, emotion management and problem solving. The MDI measures peer belonging and asks questions about friendships and feelings of fitting in.
The majority of children in Grade 4 and 7 report two or more adults in school they feel connected to – but there is still a significant percentage that report having no connections at all. As children age from Grade 4 to Grade 7, the number reporting connections with adults at school generally drops. Though this is consistent with developmental changes (as children seek more autonomy), those adult relationships remain critical.