New study highlights the role of emotional regulation in mentoring outcomes

Simpson, S. B., Hsu, T., Hoffman, L., & Raposa, E. B. (2022). A cross-cultural examination of the role of youth emotion regulation in mentoring relationships. Prevention Science.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Despite the popularity of youth mentoring programs, there’s still uncertainty about whether certain aspects of youth risk can dampen the positive impact of formal mentorships.
  • This study explores the relationship between youth emotion regulation (cognitive reappraisal & emotional suppression) and mentoring outcomes (early match closure & relationship quality) in the U.S. and Mexico.
  • Youth who regularly used cognitive reappraisal reportedly had better relationship quality
    • However, results indicate that this relationship was notably stronger for American youth.
  • Emotion suppression was not a predictor of mentoring outcomes in Mexico or the U.S.
  • The randomization of mentoring pairs made it easier to set apart the effects of specific youth traits on mentoring-related outcomes within the analyses.
  • Results suggest that emotion regulation might be a more reliable proxy of risk for youth psychological issues within mentoring.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Youth mentoring programs have grown in popularity, both within the United States (U.S.) and abroad, as an intervention to support youth with common behavioral and emotional difficulties. However, it is unclear whether certain dimensions of youth risk may diminish the positive impact of formalized mentoring relationships. The current study therefore examined whether youth emotion regulation, a transdiagnostic risk factor for both externalizing and internalizing behavioral difficulties, predicted mentoring relationship quality and the likelihood of early match closure. Participants included 1,298 randomized mentor–youth dyads from two nationwide mentoring programs, one with chapters across the U.S. (youth: 56% female; 37% White), and another with chapters across Mexico (youth: 49% female; 100% non-Indigenous). At baseline, youth completed the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire for Children and Adolescents (ERQ-CA). At program completion, youth and mentors completed measures of mentoring relationship quality. Multigroup structural equation models of youth outcomes revealed that greater youth use of cognitive reappraisal predicted better mentoring relationship quality in both countries when co-varying for sex, and that this relationship was stronger for mentor–youth pairs in the U.S. compared to those in Mexico. These findings have important implications for understanding the ways in which youth characteristics might shape the quality and impact of mentoring relationships across different cultural settings.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The current study examined associations between emotion regulation strategies and mentoring relationship outcomes among randomly assigned mentor–youth dyads in two large programs in the U.S. and Mexico. Multigroup structural equation models showed that, across both countries, youth who reported more frequent use of cognitive reappraisal at baseline reported better mentorship relationship quality, and this association was significantly stronger in youth from the U.S. than from Mexico. In contrast, emotion suppression was not predictive of mentoring outcomes in either country.

These findings are consistent with previous research showing that youth characteristics can relate to the quality and impact of youth mentoring relationships (e.g., Raposa et al., 2016). A large body of evidence shows that adaptive emotion regulation strategies in youth are associated with secure attachment styles and more positive social relationships with adults like teachers and parents, while maladaptive emotion regulation strategies can undermine the sense of connection in these same types of relationships (English et al., 2012; Kiel & Kalomiris, 2015; Swartz & McElwain, 2012). Should they be replicated in other large and diverse samples, our findings suggest that some emotion regulation strategies may also be predictive of youth functioning in relationships with mentors, although careful consideration of the context of the mentoring relationship may be warranted. Future research would also benefit from exploring more nuanced ways in which different emotion regulation skills may unfold in mentoring relationships for youth of different ages, given that emotion regulation tends to develop across childhood and adolescence (Gullone et al., 2010). Further research in this area could prove vital for developing parsimonious assessments of a youth’s likelihood of benefiting from this particular type of relationship-based intervention.

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