Posts Tagged ‘Developmental relationships’

CTE as a Protective Factor for Mental Health Part 3: Establishing CTE as a protective factor for mental health through developmental relationships

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

The protective factors for mental health inherent to Career Technical Education (CTE) may offer opportunities to improve mental health and overall outcomes for learners, solidifying CTE’s role in not only preparing learners for the workforce but also for life. In part three of this four-part blog series, Senior Communications Associate and Mental Health Educator Jodi Langellotti uses the power of developmental relationships to establish CTE as a protective factor for mental health.

In the second blog in this series, we discussed how Dr. Christina Bethell and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins University conducted research that found that the more positive childhood experiences someone has, the greater the positive impact on their mental health as an adult regardless of how much adversity they may have faced in childhood. Additionally, positive childhood experiences were shown to help buffer the negative neurodevelopmental changes caused by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and other childhood trauma. Through this study, seven positive childhood experiences, or protective factors, were identified with three of them taking place within the home and the remaining four, within the community. For the purposes of connecting CTE to protective factors, we will focus on the four identified as taking place within the community as listed below.

It is possible to further categorize these four community-based protective factors in a way that brings more concreteness to the idea of belonging and participating in community traditions as follows:

The four community factors of support will serve as the foundation for grounding CTE’s role as a protective factor for mental health. Additionally, research coming out of the Search Institute provides additional evidence of CTE’s role in supporting mental health and positive learner outcomes.

Developmental Relationships Framework – Search Institute

The Search Institute has conducted a significant amount of research on how relationships can positively impact youth development, mental health, performance, and overall well-being. The Search Institute defines developmental relationships as “Close connections through which young people discover who they are, gain abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to interact with and contribute to the world around them.”1

The Developmental Relationships Framework is broken down into five key elements, with 20 specific actions, that are proven to have positive impacts on youth sense of self, resiliency, mental health, and more. The five key elements are:

In 2023 the Search Institute released Developmental Relationships: The Roots of Positive Youth Development 10 Years of Youth Voice, Practitioner Wisdom, and Research Insights which provides insights into the positive impacts of developmental relationships.2

Here are just a few highlights of the identified positive outcomes of developmental relationships:

CTE as a Protective Factor for Mental Health

The activities within CTE foster hope, support, and developmental relationships and therefore serve as a protective factor for youth mental health. To illustrate this concept clearly, the five key elements of the Developmental Relationships Framework will be connected to the four community factors of support as these are more concise while still being effective in connecting to the activities within CTE. 

Developmental Relationships Framework image from Search Institute

In the image above, the five key elements of developmental relationships, represented in color within the pentagon, apply to one or more of the four community factors of support, listed in black text around the outside of the pentagon. Below are some examples of activities within CTE that fall under the four community factors of support.

Image created by the author

Emotional Support

Multiple Sources of Help

CTE especially shines in the categories of reciprocity (being able to receive and give) and social bridging (connecting with people and places to broaden their world). 


Social bridging

The above are provided as just an example of how the activities inherent to CTE support the aspects of developmental relationships and the four community factors of support. Connecting CTE to protective factors does not necessarily require us to do anything new. Rather, it requires increased intentionality and a better understanding of and messaging about how CTE can play an integral role in preparing learners for the workforce and life.

Questions for consideration

Looking Ahead

In the next blog in this series (part 4), we will discuss how to incorporate CTE’s role as a protective factor for mental health into program and recruitment messaging and communications and suggestions for next steps to continue the conversation with key collaborators and policymakers.

Additional Resources

Much of the information in this blog is from the author’s training as an Adverse Childhood Experiences Master Trainer through ACE Interface with Dr. Robert Anda and Laura Porter and through her volunteer work within the community mental health space.

Jodi Langellotti, senior policy associate

By Jodi Langellotti in Meeting the Needs of All Learners
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