Importance of building relationships at young ages


Sophomore lab partners Taylor Johnson and Jackie Maurino work together to complete their biology lab.

Many people are aware of the terms introvert and extrovert, but have you ever wondered how our interactions with the people around us determine that and other aspects of our lives?
There are four basic types of relationships that humans have: family relationships, friendships, acquaintanceships, and romantic relationships. Each relationship serves a different purpose and can impact people in different ways.
Naturally, people develop family relationships at the earliest age. According to an article written by Family Resources advocate Lisa Davis, the relationship between a child and their family or primary caregivers typically sets the tone for all future relationships in life. This is because young children are at an extremely impressionable and developmental age, not only will this relationship affect the child emotionally, but in some cases mentally and physically. Furthermore, Davis states that negative relationships at a young age such as childhood trauma can linger with an individual for their entire lives and cause various mental health issues.
Stated in an article written by licensed clinical social worker Sherry Amatenstein, our romantic relationships are most impacted by our family relationships.
“If mom and dad treated one another and/or their child with frequent displays of temper, belittling, and emotional carelessness, that is normal and therefore acceptable,” Amatenstein said.
According to, respectful relationships entail communication, consent, recognition, and respect. American children are taught these qualities as young as elementary school. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many students lost the opportunity to learn these qualities in the classroom. Because of this loss, many schools shifted their focus towards social-emotional learning upon return from quarantine.
“Given the very different academic and social-emotional learning opportunities during the pandemic, returning to face-to-face learning will require more support for social-emotional knowledge and skills,” Elmhurst University professor Debra Meyer wrote in an article titled “How Should Social Emotional Learning Change Post-Pandemic?”.
Meyer also wrote that even if students were learning in person throughout the pandemic, their learning environment still was not optimal for the circumstances. She believes that students can better achieve their academic goals when they have social-emotional knowledge and skills.
In this Post-Pandemic world, social interaction seems to be more and more important in the classroom. Classes spend time learning each other’s names, doing small group activities, and demonstrating listening skills by rephrasing.
“If you don’t think it is necessary to teach social skills and practice them, just reflect on how well students successfully participated during remote and hybrid learning,” Meyer said.
In the article, Meyer reminds educators that they are training students to become successful in the workforce and that social interaction plays a major role in any job. She goes on to state that social-emotional learning is important for students of all ages due to the amount of social interaction they missed during the pandemic.
It’s been proven that building professional relationships in the workforce is also beneficial for people as it builds networking skills and opens possibilities for new opportunities. According to the Indeed editorial team, regardless of the field you work in positive relationships with peers directly impacts professional success.
According to Indeed, building relationships in the workplace improves collaboration, individual productivity, employee morale, mental health, and creativity. Learning to develop healthy relationships at a young age makes relationship building in adulthood much easier.

Early childhood
Many people believe that the relationships we develop as children set the foundation for our relationships in adulthood. According to an article published by the Austin Trauma Therapy Center titled “How Childhood Trauma Impacts Adult Relationships”, people who lacked secure relationships with adults during childhood are more likely to grow up with low feelings of self-worth as well as various emotional regulation challenges such as depression. The center goes on to state that how we grew up affects the type of attachment style held in adult relationships.
The article states that there are four attachment styles which are categorized as secure, dismissive-avoidant, fearful-avoidant, and anxious-preoccupied.
Those who have a secure attachment style are said to have grown up in a comfortable, consistent, supportive environment, people with this attachment style generally act the same way with their relationships in adulthood.
“I would say that I have a pretty secure attachment style, I grew up in a nice home,” senior Harmony Lionberger said. “I definitely know people in my life that have different styles and it’s interesting when I see how different we really are.”
The dismissive-avoidant attachment style is developed when caregivers are dismissive or neglectful towards a child’s emotional needs. From a young age, these children learn to emotionally pull themselves away from others in fear of rejection, they also become more independent in an attempt to protect themselves. Notable techniques of this attachment style in adulthood may present themselves as shutting down, sending mixed signals, and avoiding others.
Children who grew up with prolonged abuse or neglect are most likely to have the fearful-avoidant attachment style. These individuals typically fear intimacy yet also fear not having any close relationships.
In adulthood, the anxious-preoccupied attachment style presents itself as being “clingy”; these individuals typically need more validation and approval than the other attachment styles. This is because the child grew up with parents who were inconsistent in their responses. Sometimes their parents were caring and nurturing while other times they acted cold and rejecting. Individuals with this attachment style are more likely to have increased anxiety.
Looking past attachment styles, there is also research that in extreme cases of abuse or neglect at a young age, a child’s brain chemistry can change.
“Toxic stress has the potential to change your child’s brain chemistry, brain anatomy, and even gene expression,” pediatric experts on said. “Toxic stress weakens the architecture of the developing brain, which can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.”
Toxic stress is the body’s response to extended serious stress without the support of a caregiver. The consequences of toxic stress can include impaired memory, mood control issues, and anxiety.
“The ACE The Adverse Childhood Experiences study showed that adverse childhood experiences in categories of abuse, household challenges, and neglect are not only associated with worse mental health outcomes, but also with chronic health conditions,” said.
The study stated that because toxic stress responses can change gene expressions, health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and several other adult health conditions are associated with toxic stress.

Post-Pandemic Relationships
Many parents, educators, and medical professionals have noticed a decline in children and adolescent’s social and learning abilities since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. According to, 55 million American students were physically out of school for the 2020-2021 school year due to the pandemic.
“For certain students, this absence of social collaboration can start sentiments of seclusion,” Quest News reporter Megan Robinson said. “Not having enough communication with educators and friends is among the greatest difficulties of examining on the web and passing their courses.”
Elementary students in grades kindergarten through fourth are believed to have been impacted the most long term socially and academically from the pandemic.
“Really simple things like how to follow the instructions from someone who’s not your parent, learning how to share teachers’ attention in the classroom, raising your hand – all these really common kind of basic things that these kids have missed out on just over the past year,” SSM Health Monroe Clinic doctor based in Madison, Wisconsin Lindsey Geier said in an interview.
Geier states that these ages were impacted significantly because their education serves as an opportunity to help them develop basic social skills with people outside of their families.
Although education during the height of the pandemic looked different for everyone, the preferred method for many schools was Zoom. Zoom is a virtual platform that allows for quick and easy communication through meetings. In these virtual meetings, teachers had the ability to put students in breakout rooms, smaller meetings inside of the larger meeting, which was students’ only form of social interaction throughout their online school day.
“Breakout rooms don’t appear to be all that helpful for making ‘social interaction’,” Robinson said.
Educators found that in many cases, breakout rooms were not effective for their intended purpose of encouraging students to collaborate and socialize with each other. Robinson reported that the lack of communication with educators and peers proved to be detrimental to the grades, work ethic, and mental health of American students of all ages.
“I struggled a lot socially and mentally when we were learning online, it was a lot harder for me to focus and pay attention,” senior Dominic Barrett said. “I also felt like when we switched back to hybrid my teachers didn’t even know my name, there just was a lack of connection that I hadn’t experienced before.”
According to an article published by Idea Public Schools titled “3 Big Reasons Why In-Person Learning is Best for Scholars”, students develop deeper relationships with their teachers and peers throughout in-person learning when compared to online. This is because they are able to read body language and engage in conversations with peers and educators.

In conclusion
Our relationships with the people around us in childhood set the tone for our relationships in adolescents and adulthood. These relationships play a role in determining whether we classify ourselves as introverts or extroverts. According to Psychology Today, these personality types have different ways of interacting with the world around them. Psychology Today also states that extroverts are typically more social and outgoing than introverts. However, there is no evidence that one personality type is happier or more successful in the workforce than the other.
Furthermore, it has been proven that the pandemic set teens behind socially, an article written by The Atlantic titled “What Happens When Kids Don’t See Their Peers for Months” stated that young children were not nearly as socially impacted by the 2020 quarantine as teens ready to develop their social lives outside of family relations were. Currently, these adolescents’ mental health has improved significantly since in-person learning has resumed.
Overall, there is significant evidence that developing healthy relationships in life is extremely beneficial for mental health, academics, networking, and our personalities.