Teens: Building Trust Matters in Social Relationships

One of the important skills a teen is developing is how to form rewarding and meaningful social relationships. Whereas when you were younger, you were focused on physical growth, bonding with your parents, and exploring the world in general. Now, adolescence is a time of social exploration, putting friends before family, and engaging in a world that extends beyond school and home.


Yet, one of the dangers of being more social is knowing when to trust someone. One research study recently completed in Dartmouth, New Hampshire shows that trust plays a significant role in our ability to further engage with someone and develop stronger bonds.


Perhaps it’s obvious that we need to trust someone before we decide to spend more and more time with someone. However, it’s also true that as a teen, you might get caught by a person’s social status, their stylish way of dressing, or the company they keep. It’s possible to get swept away by their outer appearance versus the inner character. It’s easy as a teen to place value on those things because that’s part of the social exploration you’re doing at this stage. Yet, research tells us that trust needs to be a significant part forming and building social relationships.


In the study mentioned above, participants believed that they were playing an economic investment game with a close friend, stranger, or slot machine. However, in reality, they were playing with a simple algorithm that reciprocated trust 50% of the time. The researchers developed a computer model that was able to predict the player’s decision in a given round based upon their previous experiences in the game.


The results revealed that participants found interactions with a close friend more rewarding than interactions with a stranger or slot machine. In fact, the social value that researchers developed predicted the investment decisions made by the participants. And these predictions were more accurate than the models that only considered financial payoffs. In other words, the social value had an impact on the participants’ decision making.


One author of the study, Luke Change, commented about the study saying, “These findings show the importance of social relationships in how we make everyday decisions and specifically how relationships can change our perceived value associated with a given decision.”


Without trust, two people can never become entirely close. Without trust in a relationship, it’s impossible to feel safe and cared for by another person. Of course, building trust takes time. It requires deepening the connection between two people, and this is true for all the relationships a teen has with others. This is especially true among the family relationships a teen has, but also among relationships with those outside of the family.


As you continue to develop friendships, acquaintances, and relationships that include trust, you might find that the value found in those relationships influences your life. You might feel safe in the world. You might even make decisions for yourself that are based upon knowing that it is safe to trust others and become close to them.