Belonging is a fundamental need for people of all ages. Feeling a sense of connectedness to family, peers, school, and community is one of the most important assets for a child’s well-being, health, and success in life Masten, 2018; Thomson et al., 2018. Research shows that children with positive peer relationships feel better about themselves, experience greater mental health, are more prosocial, and perform better academically Wentzel, 1997. A single caring adult, be it a family member, coach, teacher, an elder, or a neighbour, can positively influence a child’s life and promote resilience Werner, 2004. Children’s life satisfaction is related to their sense of belonging with peers and their supportive relationships with adults at home and school, even more so than family income or personal health Gadermann et al., 2016; Oberle et al., 2014. This is true across cultures Emerson et al., 2018. For children, connectedness to extended family, community, as well as land, language, and culture also can play an important role in encouraging a strong and healthy sense of identity First Nations Information Governance Centre, 2016.

The MDI's Measures of Connectedness

Connectedness to Adults
A caring adult can make a positive, long-term influence on a child’s life Werner, 2004. Close bonds and consistent positive supports from family and teachers promote healthy development and well-being throughout childhood and adolescence, with benefits extending into adulthood Werner, 2013. At school, teachers, principals, and school staff are in a unique position to form meaningful bonds with children as they spend a large part of the day together. Feeling connected to one’s teacher is linked to emotional well-being Garcia-Moya et al., 2015. A healthy relationship with a parent or caregiver at home is also critical for development, serving as a model for all relationships throughout children’s lives Bosmans & Kerns, 2015. When parents and caregivers provide a secure, supportive, and reliable home base, their children tend to have fewer behaviour and emotional difficulties Oldfield et al., 2016. Positive relationships with caring and supportive adults also can be developed outside of school and home environments. For example, after-school programs can provide children with opportunities to interact and build positive relationships with adults Durlak & Weissberg, 2007. The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) asks children about their connectedness to adults at home, at school and in the community as well as the number of adults that are important to them at school. In Grades 6, 7, and 8, the MDI also asks children to identify the qualities that make an adult at school important to them
Connectedness to Peers
Peers begin to have a stronger influence on well-being in the middle years Eccles, 1999. Children with positive peer relationships feel better about themselves, experience better mental health, and perform better academically (Wentzel, 1998). Having positive relationships with peers can help children develop important interpersonal skills such as perspective taking and empathy, which in turn supports cooperative and prosocial behaviour Wentzel et al., 2009. The MDI has two measures of Connectedness to Peers: Peer Belonging and Friendship Intimacy.

For more detailed information on the measures included in the Connectedness dimension of the MDI including a full list of questions that contribute to each measure, how each measure is scored, and how the results are visualized, please consult the MDI Companion Guide.

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