Marginalized Youth, Mental Health, and Connection with Others: A Review of the Literatureedit
For marginalized youth, the transition to adulthood is a stage of life in which inequalities can be either magnified or reduced. While most descriptions of these young people highlight their difficulties achieving self-sufficiency, the ability to form connections with others is an equally significant marker of adult maturity. Given that social isolation poses serious risks to health and well-being, the relational experiences of marginalized youth are a critical component of the transition to adulthood. Experiences of trauma, marginalization, and involvement in public systems of care can place these youth at heightened risk for mental health difficulties, all of which can pose particular challenges for interpersonal relationships. This critical review of the literature explores the research on the relational experiences of marginalized young people living with emotional and behavioral challenges. It discusses the unique developmental context of marginalized youth, including experiences with trauma, mental illness, marginalization, and involvement in public systems of care. It then reviews the benefits young people derive from mutually empathic connections with others. The review explores facilitators of connection for marginalized youth, as well as barriers to connection for these young people. Following this review, the article identifies several gaps in the literature, and ends with a call for both practitioners and researchers to focus on the importance of connection as an underappreciated and crucial resource for marginalized youth.