Key traits young people look for in trusted adults

September 18, 2013

One in every two young people relies in some way on a trusted adult who is either a paid or volunteer worker in their community, new UNSW research suggests.

The in-depth study involving six communities across Australia also reveals the characteristics young people look for in adults when developing significant relationships.

The findings presented at the 2013 Australian Social Policy Conference at UNSW highlight the importance of adults outside the home in helping young people navigate their way to .

Lead author, UNSW Associate Professor Kristy Muir, says interestingly many significant adults did not realise the impact they were having.

"A lot were surprised. They just thought, 'I'm the soccer coach', but they were really pleased to learn they were making a difference to these young people's lives," says Muir.

Key findings:

  • About 44% of participants had a family member or family friend they ranked as a trusted adult
  • Significant adult relationships matter to young people regardless of whether they are working, unemployed or in school.
  • The advice and support they seek from trusted adults differs with economic engagement: Young people in school or work had conversations around problems with friends and pathways to future work or , and, for those who had dropped out or were at-risk of leaving schooling, it was about how to re-engage with education and feel valued.

The study identified the key traits young people looked for in these relationships as:

  • Trust: Young people must inherently trust the significant other adult.
  • How conversations are constructed: 'Talking' not telling. Discussions are generally reciprocal, not forced and there is a level of equity, but also recognition that the trusted adult has .
  • The way advice is delivered and on what basis: Trusted adults ask young people questions and are interested; the relationship is respectful and non-judgmental.
  • How adults make young people feel:  Young people feel listened to, understood and important.

Associate Professor Muir says the trusted adults were often people who went beyond what was expected of them.

"Very few young people identify school counsellors as a trusted adult because they are doing what they expect of them, but there were cases where young would turn to their early childhood teacher for advice," she says.

The full program for the 2013 Australian Social Policy Conference, which ends today, is available here. This is the 14th conference hosted by UNSW's Social Policy Research Centre.

Related Stories

Young people at higher risk for stroke

September 3, 2013

Fifteen percent of the most common type of strokes occur in adolescents and young adults, and more young people are showing risk factors for such strokes, according to a report in the journal Neurology.

Why do young adults start smoking?

September 17, 2013

The risk of becoming a smoker among young adults who have never smoked is high: 14% will become smokers between the ages of 18 and 24, and three factors predict this behaviour.

Recommended for you

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

July 27, 2015

One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected ...

Fatherhood makes men fat

July 21, 2015

All those leftover pizza crusts you snatch from your kids' plates add up. Men gain weight after they become fathers for the first time whether or not they live with their children, reports a large, new Northwestern Medicine ...

Words jump-start vision, psychologist's study shows

July 21, 2015

Cognitive scientists have come to view the brain as a prediction machine, constantly comparing what is happening around us to expectations based on experience—and considering what should happen next.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.