Finding the fluoride: Examining how and why developmental relationships are the active ingredient in interventions that work.

Comments on an article by Megan M. Julian & Junlei Li (see record 2012-10324-001). Junlei Li and Megan Julian argued that a major and under appreciated factor in the success and failure of interventions intended to improve the lives of children and youth at risk is the degree to which those interventions promote what the authors called developmental relationships. They asserted that “developmental interventions produce desirable outcomes if and only if such interventions enhanced developmental relationships”. To illustrate their hypothesis, Li and Julian compared the role of developmental relationships in effective interventions to the role that fluoride plays in toothpaste: it is the active ingredient that directly and most powerfully contributes to the intended outcome. Although inactive ingredients such as those that determine the color and taste of toothpaste add value, it is the active ingredient of fluoride that is essential for fighting cavities. In the context of interventions for youth at risk, Li and Julian argued that rather than focusing on the active ingredient of relationships, strategies too often focus on “inactive ingredients” such as performance incentives, systems for holding employees accountable for performance, and the creation of new curricula. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)