Fostering Change: Promoting Cultural Humility for Youth Mentors

Reference: Anderson, A. J., Jones, K. V., DuBois, D. L., Çifci, F., & Teger, Z. (2023). Cultural humility development in adults serving as mentors for youth: A qualitative evidence synthesis. American Journal of Community Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

About the Study:

Research on social justice in mentoring and relational mentoring posits that mentors grow alongside their mentees in formal mentoring programs. However, although quantitative studies have investigated how mentors’ cultural biases change over time, it’s equally important to examine what insights qualitative evidence can provide regarding the multifaceted nature of cultural humility. This study addresses the gap in the literature by exploring the qualitative aspects of mentors’ cultural humility development, inquiring how adult mentors can cultivate cultural humility within formal youth mentoring programs.

Key Findings:

  • Humanizing Others: Mentors’ awareness and understanding of diversity among individuals and within groups improved throughout their relationships with their mentees. Their roles also encouraged mentors to make personal connections to minoritized experiences (in other words, it made topics, such as racism, more personally relevant, as opposed to distant subjects).
  • Reflecting Inward on One’s Own Identity, Biases, and Opportunities: Mentoring motivated some mentors to reflect on their experiences, privileges, and opportunities. It also encouraged them to confront their biases and stereotypes, be less judgemental, and become motivated to take action. Mentors who share the same race or ethnicity as their mentees also benefited, allowing them to explore their identities.
  • Connecting With Others: Mentors learned to listen, relate, and learn about different perspectives. They also learned to practice cross-cultural empathy and develop a sense of belonging in their community.
  • Recognizing Environmental Influences on Human Development: Mentors became more aware of societal inequalities and how family contexts affect youth experiences.
  • Envisioning Contributions to Community Changes: Engaging in mentoring programs (particularly programs with a broader support structure or service component) encouraged mentors to make positive changes in their communities.
  • Counterevidence: Although a majority of the findings of this study are positive, there was still some evidence of mentors having harmful ideas (e.g., viewing their mentees’ struggles on an individual level without accounting for environmental causes and having deficit perceptions), indicating that shifts in cultural humility weren’t universal among mentors. Due to the nature of this study’s data collection, it’s possible that some mentors felt discouraged from discussing any negative thoughts they had.
  • Overall: The themes identified in this study highlighted how mentors became more aware of their privileges and biases, as well as other peoples’ lived experiences. However, there is relatively less evidence of mentors taking action or accounting for environmental factors that impact their mentees (e.g., racism or classism).

Implications for Mentoring: 

The study findings offer a variety of implications that can further inform evidence-based practices. For instance, practitioners need to consider how to develop practices regarding training and matching mentors who have little to no personal connections with youth from different social backgrounds. Additionally, given how there was limited evidence from the study regarding racial privilege or racism, mentoring programs need to ensure that they explicitly address oppressive systems that reinforce inequalities experienced by mentees (e.g., racism and classism). Practitioners should also consider how former mentors can continue to be partners in enacting social change after their mentorships officially end. Lastly, although this study investigates the development of cultural humility among mentors, it doesn’t insinuate that mentees and their families are responsible for educating their mentors. It’s essential for mentoring programs to center their programming around mentees while accounting for what mentors are learning from their participation that can affect their mentees, their relationships, and themselves.

To access the article, click here.