For some people, respect is due to people of particular standing and involves formality and deference. For others, respect is based on regard and attention. This approach is essentially informal. This article explores young people's interpretations of respect and shows how an understanding of its theory and practice may enhance relationships between adults, especially those employed in the social professions, and young people. Two frameworks are employed to assist in exploring the issues involved; one is located in communication theory within educational contexts (Burbules, 1993) and the other in the politics of self-definition (Wilson, 1993). The discussion draws on three pieces of empirical research involving young people and professionals. The different interpretations of respect are shown to provide a means of understanding a source of conflict between professionals with positions of authority in young people's lives and the young people themselves.