How trust in adults influences Latinx youths’ well-being via self-esteem & mentoring relationship quality


O’Donnell, A. J., Sánchez, B., & Grant, K. E. (2021). Latinx adolescents’ trust in adults: A precursor to psychological well-being via mentoring relational quality and self-esteem. Journal of Community Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin  

Notes of Interest:

  • Although trust is beneficial for psychological well-being, there’s limited research that assesses the impact trust in adults has on the well-being of Latinx adolescents over time.  
  • This study assesses how interpersonal trust in adults affects Latinx youths’ well-being through self-esteem and their mentoring relationship quality. 
  • Findings indicate that placing more trust in adults indirectly correlates with higher levels of coping self-efficacy through self-esteem and mentoring relational quality.
  • Positive expectations of adults can encourage Latinx youth to become closer to their natural mentors and promote positive self-perception and coping ability. 
  • Adults attuned to their mentees’ personalities and experiences of discrimination are good natural mentors.
    • It provides a solid foundation for young people to develop the efficacy to cope with stress and increase awareness of systemic issues.  

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract) 

This study aimed to test a longitudinal model of trust in adults and psychological well-being among Latinx adolescents, a population that has received little attention in the trust literature. The participants were urban, low-income Latinx (N = 294) students at two urban, Midwestern high schools who indicated they had at least one natural mentor in 9th grade. Participants completed surveys at two-time points, in 9th and 10th grade, and responded to measures of their feelings toward adults, quality of their natural mentoring relationships, self-esteem, intrinsic academic motivation, and coping self-efficacy. More trust in adults was indirectly, but not directly, associated with higher coping self-efficacy via higher mentoring relational quality and self-esteem. Positive expectations of adults may open Latinx youth to closeness in natural mentoring relationships and positive self-perceptions, which may, in turn, bolster coping ability.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion) 

This study was a within-group examination of the potential psychological benefits associated with positive interactions with adults for Latinx adolescents in the context of natural mentoring relationships. The basis for this study was trust’s theoretical roots in attachment and the emphasis on trust in mentoring models (e.g., Hagler, 2018; Rhodes, 2005). However, few empirical investigations have specifically examined trust in adults as a predictor of both natural mentoring relationships and psychological well-being among Latinx adolescents, who are among the least represented populations in the trust literature. Therefore, this was a novel investigation of trust in an understudied population that also adds to the literature on youth mentoring.

Trust in adults is theoretically linked to the quality of one’s earlier attachment relationships, which have been associated with a host of downstream consequences in the psychology literature (see Gorrese, 2016 and Madigan et al., 2016 for meta-analyses). Although youths’ IT in a number of domains, including peers (e.g., Rotenberg et al., 2005), teachers (e.g., Novak & Kawachi, 2015), and attachment figures (e.g., Santens et al., 2018) has been inversely associated with distress and internalizing problems, very few researchers have taken an asset-based approach to this subject. It is certainly important to acknowledge the risks associated with inadequate social support, which are compounded for systemically disadvantaged adolescents of color. However, as researchers have disproportionally taken a deficits-focused approach when studying the adjustment of the youth of color, the asset-based approach in this study is an important contribution to the literature. Thus, in addition to our sample consisting of low-income, Latinx adolescents, the use of psychological well-being outcomes and consideration given to the benefits of high-quality nonparental relationships (i.e., natural mentors) add a fresh perspective.

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