What is Normative Culture?

Normative Culture is a way of behaving rather than a system of rules. It uses peer pressure in a positive way among both youths and staff to create shared expectations regarding attitudes and behavior. It also gives staff members, parents and children a common language to use when talking about these expectations.

Expected attitudes and behaviors are called “norms.” Being a member of our community requires that adults and youths alike act according to the norms of respect, responsibility, safety and achieving goals.

When someone breaks a norm, the people around him or her are expected to point out, or “confront,” the error in a helpful manner. The person being confronted is expected to accept helpful feedback in a respectful way.

"In Normative Culture, confrontations are seen as an opportunity to solve a problem."


Throughout the day, people look to the four norms to guide their behavior. They must take responsibility and accountability for their actions, show respect for others, keep the situation safe, and work toward achieving goals. In this way, adults and youths serve as positive role models for one another.

One tool used in our residential programs is Guided Group Interaction (GGI). Under the guidance of staff, our youths meet in small groups to take accountability for their actions and listen to the advice of their peers. Each youth is encouraged to take ownership of his or her own behavior rather than placing blame on others or on circumstances outside their control.

"Through this process they learn that the power to create positive changes lies within each individual. Perhaps for the first time, they then feel capable of changing their behaviors and, consequently, their lives."

Normative Culture can be used by youths in their residence, in school and throughout their adult lives. Unlike a rules-based approach where the rules differ according to the situation, Normative Culture’s guidelines are more consistent.

As the concepts of Normative Culture have been woven into the policies and procedures of the organization, the work environment for our employees has changed as well.


An Internal Guide

The goal of Normative Culture is to develop within each individual an internal guide for behavior that is helpful in any environment.