How mentoring relationship quality profiles connect to urban, low-income youth’s academic outcomes

Liao, C., & Sánchez, B. (2019). Mentoring Relationship Quality Profiles and Their Association With Urban, Low-Income Youth’s Academic Outcomes. Youth & Society, 51(4), 443-462.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Liao’s & Sánchez’s study sought to:
    • pinpoint mentor quality profiles depending on the traits of the informal mentoring relationships
    • explore how the demographic traits of the mentors and mentees overlap with the profiles
    • and analyze if the profiles are connected to youth academic outcomes.
  • 411 low income, ninth-graders, who were from an urban setting, were recruited.
  • The mentors recruited were extended family members, older siblings, as well as other  non-family individuals.
  • Liao & Sánchez classified two mentoring quality relationship profiles through their cluster analysis: “closer and more growth-oriented” and “less close and growth-orientated”.
  • They found that the male participants were either more likely to be in non-mentoring groups or to be in the “less close and growth-orientated” group than their female counterparts.
  • Disparities arose, within the univariate tests, pertaining to relationship profile groups and non-mentored groups on educational aspirations and expectations, education and GPA restrictions, perceived economic benefits, and intrinsic motivation.
  • This study indicates the significance of utilizing a within-group approach when studying mentoring relationships.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

This study aimed to (a) identify mentoring quality profiles based on characteristics of informal mentoring relationships, (b) examine how mentor and youth demographic characteristics were related to the profiles, and (c) investigate whether the profiles were related to youth’s academic outcomes. Participants were 411 ninth-grade urban, low-income students. Mentors were comprised of older siblings, extended family members, and non-familial adults. Using cluster analysis, we identified two mentoring quality relationship profiles: (a) less close and growth oriented and (b) closer and more growth oriented. Boys were more likely to have less close and growth-oriented relationship profiles or to be in the non-mentored group compared with girls. Univariate tests showed differences among relationship profile groups and non-mentored groups on intrinsic motivation, educational aspirations and expectations, perceived economic benefits, and limitations of education and grade point average (GPA). The study reveals the importance of taking a within-group, person-centered approach when examining mentoring relationships.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

In general, we found that students with closer and more growth-oriented mentoring profiles had better academic outcomes than students with less close and growth-oriented relationships and students without mentors. Our findings fill a gap in the literature by examining the specific characteristics that comprise mentoring quality (Deutsch & Spencer, 2009) and support the importance of mentoring quality, which has been discussed as the mechanism by which mentoring promotes positive youth development (Rhodes, 2005). Our findings suggest that simply examining the presence of a mentor is insufficient to understanding the role of mentoring in youth outcomes, similar to past research. For instance, relationship closeness was found to mediate the association between mentoring program participation and academic outcomes in a study of formal school-based mentoring among 1,139 rural and urban children and adolescence (Bayer, Grossman, & DuBois, 2015).

An interesting finding is that we did not find statistically significant differences in academic outcomes between students with less close and growth oriented relationship profiles and non-mentored students, except for GPA. Thus, it seems that the mere presence of informal mentors is insufficient. Youth need to develop higher mentoring quality relationships to experience better academic outcomes than non-mentored youth. These findings are consistent with Bayer et al.’s (2015) study, which revealed that youth with at least “somewhat close” or better mentoring relationships had improved academic outcomes. In other words, simply being assigned to a mentor was insufficient for producing changes in academic outcomes at the end of the school year (Bayer et al., 2015). Thus, high quality and close relationships are the “active ingredient” for successful mentoring


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