Why Are Relationships Important to Children’s Well-Being?

  • Ross A. Thompson


Children live in an environment of relationships, and understanding the origins of children’s well-being requires attention to the nature and function of relational experience that contributes to well-being. In this chapter, a multilevel analysis is devoted to understanding why relationships are important to children’s well-being. The research literature on social support is examined first to elucidate the functions of social support in children’s relationships. Similarities and differences between children and adults in how social support is given and received, the nature of the social networks that provide support, and their understanding of support are discussed. Next, the research from developmental relational science is examined to understand the characteristics of relational interaction that contribute to children’s well-being. By examining research on parent–child and peer relationships, a number of basic psychological needs that are addressed in children’s relationships are identified and discussed. Finally, the research on children’s developing representations of relational experience is explored to consider how these also contribute to well-being. Developmental changes in social representations and the influence of relational experience on these representations contribute to several conclusions about the impact on well-being of children’s beliefs about themselves and other people and how to interact satisfactorily with others. Finally, the implications of these conclusions for interventions designed to enhance children’s well-being are discussed in a concluding section.


Social Support Social Network Child Relationship Secure Attachment Child Attachment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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