Adolescent Research Review

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Webs of Support: An Integrative Framework of Relationships, Social Networks, and Social Support for Positive Youth Development

  • Shannon M. VargaEmail author
  • Jonathan F. Zaff
Narrative Review


Supportive relationships promote positive academic, behavioral, and psychological outcomes, while also buffering against negative outcomes. Traditionally, there has been a schism in how developmental scientists study relationships, with studies focused either on relationship quality and supports within dyads or general structures of relationships and social capital across social networks. While these lines of research provide insight into the power of relationships, resources, and networks for youth, they have not fully captured how relationships and resources operate in a relational developmental system. Drawing from relationship, social support, social capital, and social network literatures, this article presents a new framework, webs of support, to actualize how relationships and resources optimally operate to promote more accurate examinations of how adolescents gain the developmental supports necessary to thrive. This article also discusses implications and poses larger questions about the use of this framework in research and practice.



The authors would like to thank Dr. Renee Spencer, Professor at the Boston University School of Social Work, and Dr. Nancy Deutsch, Professor at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, for sharing their expertise and thoughtful feedback. Thank you also to Dr. Michael Little, Creative Director and Rebeca Sandu, PhD Researcher at the Dartington Social Research Unit for their thoughtful review of our early work. Special thanks to all the team members at the Center for Promise who participated in discussions throughout the creation of this brief.

Authors' Contributions

Both authors had conducted research separately which led them to this concept. SV took the primary role in writing the article, designing the figures, and responding to reviewers. JZ primarily conceived the name and concept of webs of support and participated in writing and editing the manuscript. Both authors have read and approved the final version of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Both authors report no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for PromiseBoston University School of EducationBostonUSA

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