Skip to main content

Family Closeness and Mentor Formation among Black Youth

Abstract

The current study examined how primary caregivers’ close relationships with adult relatives may have influenced their adolescent children’s formation of familial mentoring relationships. Using survey data from 216 Black American youth (59% girls), quantitative findings indicated that when primary caregivers had more really close relationships with adult relatives, their children also reported more really close relationships with adult relatives. In turn, having more really close relationships with adult kin was associated with youth having a familial mentor. Interviews were conducted with a subsample of 24 youth, along with their primary caregiver, and an additional adult family member (72 interviews in total). Qualitative analyses were conducted to better understand how primary caregivers may facilitate relationships between their children and adult relatives. Qualitative findings indicated that primary caregivers both directly and indirectly facilitated these relationships by modeling relational closeness and permitting interactions among their children and adult relatives. Importantly, qualitative findings also highlighted the role of youth agency in creating and maintaining close intergenerational bonds. Overall, findings suggest that primary caregivers may play an influential role in shaping the nature of their children’s relationships with adult relatives. Moreover, findings suggest that youth who lack close ties with adult relatives may benefit from intentional efforts by their primary caregivers to facilitate these relationships.

Highlights

  • Primary caregivers’ closeness with adult relatives may indirectly influence Black adolescents’ familial mentor formation.

  • Size and strength of primary caregivers’ and adolescents’ close ties with adult relatives may promote familial mentor presence.

  • Primary caregivers directly and indirectly facilitate close bonds among their children and adult relatives.

  • Youth agency also may facilitate close intergenerational family relationships.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Notes

  1. In this study, “Black” as a descriptor refers to persons living in the U.S. who identify as Black/African American across the African diaspora.

  2. LINK is a mixed-method study focused on better understanding the role of Black adolescents’ social contexts (e.g., family, school, community) in the formation of natural mentoring relationships.

  3. The Big Five Inventory (BFI) is a questionnaire designed to measure five broad, empirically defined domains of personality including extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.

References

  • Attar-Schwartz, S., Tan, J., Buchanan, A., Flouri, E., & Griggs, J. (2009). Grandparenting and adolescent adjustment in two-parent biological, lone-parent, and step-families. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(1), 67–75. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014383.

  • Basualdo-Delmonico, A. (2013). The invisible hand in youth mentoring: Parent, mentor and agency perspective on parental role (Doctoral dissertation, Boston University).

  • Billingsley, A. (1968). Black families in white America. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bogdan, R.C. & Biklen, S.K. (1992). Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to Theory and Methods. (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  • Bowen, M. (1974). Alcoholism as viewed through family systems theory and family psychotherapy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 233, 115–122. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1974.tb40288.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bowlby, J. (1969). Disruption of affectional bonds and its effects on behavior. Canada’s Mental Health Supplement, 59, 12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol.2 Separation: anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books.

  • Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, L. H. (2003). Intergenerational influences on perceptions of current relationships with grandparents. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 1(1), 95–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Christensen, K. M., Raposa, E. B., Hagler, M. A., Erickson, L., & Rhodes, J. E. (2019). Role of athletic coach mentors in promoting youth academic success: evidence from the add health national longitudinal study. Applied Developmental Science. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2019.1582344.

  • Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. P. (2007). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  • Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. P. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  • Deleire, T., & Kalil, A. (2002). Good things come in threes: single-parent multigenerational family structure and adolescent adjustment. Demography, 39, 393–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Drevon, D., Kim, S. Y., & Fredrick, S. S. (2018). Natural mentoring relationships as a protective factor for victims of bullying. Journal of School Violence, 17(4), 405–416. https://doi.org/10.1080/15388220.2017.1322520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DuBois, D. L., Holloway, B. E., Valentine, J. C., & Cooper, H. (2002). Effectiveness of mentoring programs for youth: a meta‐analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 157–197. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014628810714.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • DuBois, D. L., & Silverthorn, N. (2005). Natural mentoring relationships and adolescent health: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 95(3), 518–524. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2003.031476.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Ensminger, M. E., Forrest, C. B., Riley, A. W., Kang, M., Green, B. F., Starfield, B., & Ryan, S. A. (2000). The validity of measures of socioeconomic status of adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15(3), 392–419. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558400153005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Erickson, L. D., McDonald, S., & Elder, G. H. Jr. (2009). Informal mentors and education: complementary or compensatory resources?. Sociology of Education, 82(4), 344–367. https://doi.org/10.1177/003804070908200403.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Fruiht, V., & Chan, T. (2018). Naturally occurring mentorship in a national sample of first‐generation college goers: a promising portal for academic and developmental success. American Journal of Community Psychology, 61(3–4), 386–397. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12233.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Griffith, A. N., & Larson, R. W. (2015). Why trust matters: how confidence in leaders transforms what adolescents gain from youth programs. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 26(4), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harry, B., Sturges, K. M., & Klingner, J. K. (2005). Mapping the process: An exemplar of process and challenge in grounded theory analysis. Educational Researcher, 34(2), 3–13. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X034002003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hodgson, L. G. (1998). Grandparents and older grandchildren. In M.E. Szinovacz (Ed.), Handbook on grandparenthood (pp. 171–183). Westport: Greenwood Press/Greenwood Publishing Group.

  • Hurd, N. M., Albright, J., Wittrup, A., Negrete, A., & Billingsley, J. (2018). Appraisal support from natural mentors, self-worth, and psychological distress: Examining the experiences of underrepresented students transitioning through college. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47(5), 1100–1112. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0798-x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hurd, N., & Zimmerman, M. (2010). Natural mentors, mental health, and risk behaviors: A longitudinal analysis of African American adolescents transitioning into adulthood. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46(1–2), 36–48. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-010-9325-x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hurd, N. M., Sánchez, B., Zimmerman, M. A., & Caldwell, C. H. (2012). Natural mentors, racial identity, and educational attainment among African American adolescents: exploring pathways to success. Child Development, 83(4), 1196–1212. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01769.x.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Hurd, N. M., & Sellers, R. M. (2013). Black adolescents’ relationships with natural mentors: Associations with academic engagement via social and emotional development. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19(1), 76–85. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031095.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hurd, N. M., Tan, J. S., & Loeb, E. L. (2016). Natural mentoring relationships and the adjustment to college among underrepresented students. American Journal of Community Psychology, 57(3–4), 330–341. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12059.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hurd, N. M., Varner, F. A., & Rowley, S. J. (2013). Involved-vigilant parenting and socio-emotional well-being among Black youth: The moderating influence of natural mentoring relationships. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(10), 1583–1595. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9819-y.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big Five Trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L.A. Pervin & O.P. John (Eds), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford Press.

  • Keller, T. E. (2005). A systemic model of the youth mentoring intervention. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 26(2). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-005-1850-2.

  • Keller, T. E., & Blakeslee, J. E. (2014). Social networks and mentoring. Handbook of Youth Mentoring, pp. 129–142. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412996907.n9.

  • Klaw, E. L., Rhodes, J. E., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2003). Natural mentors in the lives of African American adolescent mothers: tracking relationships over time. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(3), 223–232. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022551721565.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larson, R. (2006). Positive youth development, willful adolescents, and mentoring. Journal of Community Psychology, 34(6), 677–689. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.20123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., Bowers, E. P., & Geldhof, G. J. (2015). Positive youth development: A relational developmental systems model. In Overton, W. F., & Molenaar, P. C. M. (Eds); R. M. Lerner (Editor-in-Chief). Handbook of child psychology and developmental science, 7 th edition. Volume 1: Theory and method. New York: Wiley.

  • Lewis, M. (2005). The child and its family: the social network model. Human development, 48(1–2), 8–27. https://doi.org/10.1159/000083213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liu, Y.-L. (2008). An examination of three models of the relationships between parental attachments and adolescents’ social functioning and depressive symptoms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37(8), 941–952. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-006-9147-1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Markiewicz, D., Doyle, A. B., & Brendgen, M. (2001). The quality of adolescents’ friendships: Associations with mothers’ interpersonal relationships, attachments to parents and friends, and prosocial behaviors. Journal of Adolescence, 24(4), 429–445. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2001.0374.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • McKinney, C., & Renk, K. (2008). Differential parenting between mothers and fathers: Implications for late adolescents. Journal of Family Issues, 29(6), 806–827.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Minuchin, P. (1985). Families and individual development: Provocations from the field of family therapy. Child Development, 56(2), 289–302. https://doi.org/10.2307/1129720.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Monjaras-Gaytan, L. Y., Sanchez, B., & Carter, J. S. (2020). Developing natural mentoring relationships among Latinx youth: the roles of trust in adults and stressors. Applied Developmental Science, https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2020.1768095.

  • Monserud, M. A. (2008). Intergenerational relationships and affectual solidarity between grandparents and young adults. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(1), 182–195. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00470.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, D. L., Neal, M. B., & Carder, P. (1997). The stability of core and peripheral networks over time. Social Networks, 19(1), 9–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-8733(96)00288-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mueller, M. M., & Elder, G. H. (2003). Family contingencies across the generations: grandparent-grandchild relationships in holistic perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65(2), 404–417. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00404.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parra, G. R., DuBois, D. L., Neville, H. A., Pugh-Lilly, A. O., & Povinelli, N. (2002). Mentoring relationships for youth: Investigation of a process-oriented model. Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 367–388. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.10016.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Putnam, R. D. (2015). Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. New York: Simon and Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  • Robertson, D. C. (1975). Parental socialization patterns in interracial adoption. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 35(8-A), 5553–5554.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sánchez, B., Esparza, P., & Colón, Y. (2008). Natural mentoring under the microscope: an investigation of mentoring relationships and Latino adolescents’ academic performance. Journal of Community Psychology, 36(4), 468–482. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.20250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, S. E. O., & Rhodes, J. E. (2016). From treatment to empowerment: new approaches to youth mentoring. American Journal of Community Psychology, 58(1–2), 150–157. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12070.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Spencer, R., Basualdo-Delmonico, A., & Lewis, T. O. (2011). Working to make it work: the role of parents in the youth mentoring process. Journal of Community Psychology, 39, 51–59. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.20416.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spencer, R., Jordan, J. V., & Sazama, J. (2004). Growth-promoting relationships between youth and adults: a focus group study. Families in Society, 85(3), 354–362. https://doi.org/10.1177/104438940408500313.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stack, C. B. (1974). All our Kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York: Harper & Row.

  • Stephens, L. E., Bowers, E. P., & Lerner, J. V. (2018). Positive youth development and adolescent eating disorder symptomatology: the role of natural mentors. Journal of Community Psychology, 46(4), 473–488. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.21952.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, R. J., Chae, D. H., Lincoln, K. D., & Chatters, L. M. (2015). Extended family and friendship support networks are both protective and risk factors for major depressive disorder and depressive symptoms among African-Americans and Black Caribbeans. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 203(2), 132–140. https://doi.org/10.1097/NMD.0000000000000249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, R. J., Chatters, L. M., & Jackson, J. S. (1993). A profile of familial relations among three-generation black families. Family Relations, 42(3), 332–341. https://doi.org/10.2307/585563.

  • Thomson, N. R., & Zand, D. H. (2010). Mentees’ perceptions of their interpersonal relationships: the role of the mentor–youth bond. Youth & Society, 41(3), 434–445. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X09334806.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tolson, T. F., & Wilson, M. N. (1990). The impact of two- and three-generational Black family structure on perceived family climate. Child Development, 61(2), 416–428. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whitney, S. D., Hendricker, E. N., & Offut, C. A. (2011). Moderating factors of natural mentoring relationships, problem behaviors, and emotional well-being. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in learning, 19(1), 83–105. https://doi.org/10.1080/13611267.2011.543573.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Youniss, J., & Smollar, J. (1985). Adolescents' relations with mothers, fathers, and friends. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Zimmerman, M. A., Bingenheimer, J. B., & Behrendt, D. E. (2005). Natural mentoring relationships. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds), The Sage program on applied developmental science. Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 143–157). Sage Publications Ltd. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412976664.n10.

Download references

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the youth and families for participating in this study and the members of the research team who assisted with data collection.

Funding

This study was funded by a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar Award (grant number 182884) that was awarded to the third author.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Janelle T. Billingsley.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Virginia Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Billingsley, J.T., Rivens, A.J. & Hurd, N.M. Family Closeness and Mentor Formation among Black Youth. J Child Fam Stud 30, 793–807 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01895-y

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01895-y

Keywords

  • Black youth
  • Adolescence
  • Intergenerational relationships
  • Natural mentoring, Mixed-method