The Nature of Adolescents' Relationships with Their “Very Important” Nonparental Adults

Research paper by Margaret R. Beam, Chuansheng Chen, Ellen Greenberger

Indexed on: 01 Apr '02Published on: 01 Apr '02Published in: American Journal of Community Psychology


As part of a larger program of research on the nature of adolescents' relationships with very important nonparental adults (hereafter referred to as “VIPs”), a community sample of 243 eleventh graders (mean age = 16.6 years) was surveyed, and a subgroup of 55 adolescents and their VIPs were interviewed about the nature and quality of their relationships. Results showed that (a) adolescent–VIP relationships were a normative component of adolescent development, not a result of problems in adolescents' lives; (b) adolescent–VIP relationships were generally of high quality (e.g., high support, low conflict, and high mutuality); (c) there were significant differences between kin and nonkin VIPs in terms of the duration of relationships and frequency of contact, but not in the quality of relationships; and (d) VIPs whom adolescents designated as extremely important were distinguished from other VIPs in terms of providing a higher level of social support and a higher frequency of contact. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.