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Positive Relationships Print or save as PDF

How is it defined?

Positive relationships refer to students’ friendships with their peers that help them form positive social connections and meaningful participation within the school. Positive peer relationships promote engagement and a sense of belonging, while negative peer experiences are associated with school disengagement (Juvonen, 2007).

The Learning Bar’s framework on student engagement includes measures of social, institutional, and intellectual engagement. Positive relationships are a key component of social engagement, situated alongside participation in sports and extra-curricular activities and sense of belonging.

Why is it important?

Students’ positive relationships at school are related to their academic achievement and well-being.

  • High quality interpersonal relationships contribute to students’ academic motivation, achievement, and engagement (Martin & Dowson, 2009).
  • Students who are members of groups with high positive engagement tend to improve their engagement over time, while the opposite is the case for students that belong to groups with low engagement (Kindermann, McCollam, & Gibson, 1996).
  • Positive relationships help facilitate a connectedness with one’s school and peers. The absence of this connectedness can negatively affect student perceptions of themselves, life satisfaction and the effort put forth in school work (OECD, 2013).
  • In some countries, a ‘sizable’ minority of students lack positive peer relationships, school connectedness,and are unhappy or dissatisfied with their school (OECD, 2013).

How do we measure it?

In Tell Them From Me, in both the primary and secondary school questionnaires, students respond to Likert questions regarding their friendships at school. The data are scaled on a 10-point scale, and students with a score greater than or equal to 6 (i.e., slightly higher than neutral) are considered to have ‘positive relationships’. The results are reported as ‘the percentage of students with positive relationships’.



Juvonen, J. (2007). Reforming middle schools: Focus on continuity, social connectedness, and engagement. Educational Psychologist, 42(4), 197-208.

Kindermann, T. A., McCollam, T. L., & Gibson, E. (1996). Peer networks and students’ classroom engagement during childhood and adolescence. In J. Juvonen & K. R. Wentzel (Eds.), Social motivation: Understanding children’s school adjustment (pp. 279–312). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, A. J., & Dowson, M. (2009). Interpersonal relationships, motivation, engagement, and achievement: Yields for theory, current issues, and educational practice. Review of educational research, 79(1), 327-365.

OECD (2013), PISA 2012 Results: Ready to Learn: Students’ Engagement, Drive and Self-Beliefs (Volume III), PISA, OECD Publishing.