Characteristics of Natural Mentoring Relationships and Adolescent Adjustment: Evidence from a National Study

Abstract

This research investigated characteristics of natural mentoring relationships (mentor role, frequency of contact, closeness, duration) as predictors of adjustment outcomes among older adolescents and young adults (N = 2,053) in the Add Health study. Outcomes were assessed in the domains of education/work, problem behavior, psychological well-being, and physical health. Mentoring relationships with persons in roles outside of the family predicted greater likelihood of favorable outcomes in all domains except psychological well-being, relative to mentoring relationships with family members. Greater reported closeness in relationships was predictive of several favorable outcomes, particularly those in the domain of psychological well-being. These findings indicate that strategies to promote mentoring of adolescents may be more effective if particular categories of adults are targeted and an effort is made to cultivate relationships with strong emotional bonds.

Editors’ Strategic Implications: These data suggest that the cultivation of natural (especially non-familial) mentoring relationships during adolescence may be a promising strategy for prevention and health promotion. This study is impressive due to its large, nationally representative sample, the examination of relationship characteristics and multiple mentors, and the links to a variety of outcomes (controlling for earlier functioning). School officials and mentoring programs must consider how to capitalize on – and promote – naturally occurring mentor relationships.

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Correspondence to David L. DuBois.

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DuBois, D.L., Silverthorn, N. Characteristics of Natural Mentoring Relationships and Adolescent Adjustment: Evidence from a National Study. J Primary Prevent 26, 69–92 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-005-1832-4

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Keyword

  • mentoring
  • adolescence
  • young adults
  • prevention
  • health promotion