Boundary management

One of the main ethical issues frequently reported to arise in youth peer-based support programs is the establishment and maintenance of boundaries in both formal and informal environments. The development of any relationship between service providers and service users outside of the defined scope of the program can have an impact not only on those involved but can affect other group members as well as the group dynamics. For example, peer supporters who develop close relationships with some individuals may leave others feeling neglected and may begin to practice favouritism without realising it.

The complexity of the issue of boundaries stems from the concept of peer support itself, which effectively occurs by relaxing boundaries between the peer supporters and the service recipients so that trusting relationships can be established. However, at the same time boundaries need to be built to protect peer supporters from engaging too deeply with the peer’s problems and the tendency to provide advice, jeopardising the relationship. Establishing supportive relationships therefore requires a balancing act between inclusion and differentiation, and dependence and autonomy.1 The main types of boundaries that can be distinguished in youth peer support programs have been identified as role and relationship boundaries.

Read more about how to define role boundaries.

Read more about how to clarify relationship boundaries.


  1. Bacharach, S, Bamberger, P, and McKinney, V 2000, Boundary management tactics and logics of action: The case of peer-support providers, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 704.