Promote Peer Bonds is a young person’s experience with an adult who helps them work with peers in teams and groups, creating a safe space to learn with and from one another, exploring similarities and differences, and developing deep bonds and relationships.

Promoting peer bonds involves supporting young people to share and value one another’s unique perspectives, experiences, strengths, and ideas. This is a Foundational Experience for young people, bolstering all other PYD practices measured by Hello Insight.


When staff promote peer bonds, young people increase their self-confidence and life skills, academic motivation, as well as leadership skills and disposition (Search Institute, 2020). Promoting peer bonds has also been shown to increase high school and academic engagement, improve young people’s academic achievement, and enhance their general well-being (Donlan, A. E., et al., 2015).

In addition to the program benefits of promoting peer bonds, there are also larger societal benefits. Racism, sexism, and homophobia often come from a place of ignorance or a lack of social contact with others who are different from us. Exposing diverse groups of young people to each other and encouraging them to learn from each other by listening to their experiences can go a long way in breaking down these divisive viewpoints. It can also build their critical consciousness, empathy, and positive self-identity (Sabo Flores, K., 2020; Richards-Schuster, K. et al., 2019).


Young people are dynamic and full of promise, with many different pathways to success. Every year Hello Insight mines our growing dataset of nearly 20,000 young people, participating in approximately 400 programs nation-wide, so that we can continue to learn what works for each and every young person.

Hello Insight has found that young people who participate in programs that build strong peer bonds demonstrate more than double the SEL growth than those in other programs. Promoting Peer Bonds is important across all ethnicities and gender identities. Promoting Peer Bonds works in combination with Authentic Engagement to increase the likelihood of promoting SEL development.

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Hello Insight, in collaboration with Youth Inc., created the series Positive Youth Development in Practice, where we share different practical ways to promote Positive Youth Development experiences in young people through examples from other organizations. In this case, watch how our members practice Promoting Peer Bonds with young people.


Active Listening

A key component of teamwork is listening, but how often do we teach it? This article includes everything you need to know to become an active listener or to build a lesson around active listening. We like it both as a component of a professional development session with staff and as a lesson for young people.

Guiding Questions:

  • How and when do we actively listen to young people?
  • How do we teach them to actively listen to one another?
  • How can we improve active listening in our program?

A Tool Kit For Promoting Empathy In Schools

Supporting empathy is a key component of promoting peer bonds. This tool kit is the outcome of interviews with more than 60 educators and social entrepreneurs. It provides a roadmap for promoting empathy in schools, but many of the tips and strategies can be used in informal educational settings.

Guiding Questions:

  • Can I create the conditions in which empathy can thrive?
  • How can I engage my group in empathetic conversations and interactions with one another?
  • How can I support and encourage young people to take action on behalf of another?

Nurturing Collaboration

This article provides specific information on the ways to nurture young people working in groups. We like this resource because it provides five easy tips that can be implemented in any setting.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I put these five tips into practice in our program?
  • What tips might young people come up with if I asked them?

Creating Safe Spaces

My-Peer Toolkit

When working with young people on teams or in groups, it is necessary to develop a safe space that allows young people to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. This resource includes the best practices of setting group norms and promoting supportive relationships.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do I encourage and nourish empathy and inclusion?
  • What more should we be doing to ensure young people feel safe to participate?

Supporting School Community Wellness with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) During and After a Pandemic

Pennsylvania State University

This brief on the current crises in schools due to COVID and increasing racial tension in the U.S. provides many ways to allow young people to express their concerns. These shared experiences will strengthen peer bonds.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can expressing concerns help young people rely on one another and strengthen peer bonds?
  • What other ways can our shared traumas build stronger friendships?