Social and Ecological Structures Supporting Adolescent Connectedness to School: A Theoretical Model


  • The authors would like to thank Dr. Greg McGuire, Natasha Pearce, and Dr. Robyn Johnston for their review of earlier drafts of this article. This work was supported by a Health Promotion Foundation of Western Australia Scholarship.

Stacey K. Waters, PhD Student and Research Fellow, (, Edith Cowan University, 2 Bradford Street, Mount Lawley, Perth, WA 6050, Australia


BACKGROUND: Adolescence is a time of great change. For most young people, this is a healthy and happy experience; however, for some it is characterized by many health, social, and academic challenges. A student's feeling of connectedness to school helps meet these challenges. Little is known, however, about the school characteristics that promote this connection and, more importantly, how this connection occurs. This article reviews the connectedness literature and integrates health promotion, adolescent development, and ecological frameworks to describe how a school context fosters this connection.

METHOD: A systematic search and review process was used to retrieve scholarly articles pertaining to the research topic.

RESULTS: Each retrieved article was summarized, and a subsequent model was developed to define a school ecology and describe how this ecology influences a student's need to feel connected to school and the positive influence this connection has on adolescent health and well-being.

CONCLUSIONS: Integrating developmental, ecological, and health promotion intervention theories and frameworks assists in the identification of interpersonal and organizational aspects of a school environment, which satisfy an individual's needs to feel autonomous, competent, and connected, and to improve health and well-being outcomes for adolescents.