Mentees and their mothers: New study explores relationship difficulties and targeted mentoring
Williamson, S., Lyons, M. D., Deutsch, N. L., & Lawrence, E. (2021). Mentees and their mothers: The association between maternal relationship difficulties and targeted outcomes of mentoring. Journal of Community Psychology, 49(6), 2162–2178.
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Although maternal relationship characteristics can affect academic and behavior outcomes in youth, there is still uncertainty about how they are manifested in the context of youth mentoring.
- This study assesses whether mentoring relationship quality mediates the relationship between maternal relationship characteristics and targeted mentee outcomes.
- Maternal relationship characteristics affect targeted academic and behavioral outcomes of mentees.
- Findings indicate that mentoring relationship quality mediates the relationship between maternal relationship characteristics and behavioral outcomes.
- Girls who had strong maternal quality trust and communication might benefit the most from mentorships; this also applies to girls who feel alienated from their mothers.
- Mentoring programs need to train mentors to acknowledge 1) that it can take time to build trust with their mentees and b) recognize the importance of supporting positive maternal relationships.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Maternal relationship characteristics have been found to impact academic and behavioral outcomes for youth. However, less is known about how and through what mechanisms these characteristics impact outcomes for mentored youth. In this study, we examined if mentoring relationship quality mediated the relations between maternal relationship characteristics and academic and behavioral outcomes targeted by mentoring programs. Data were drawn from 205 participants who participated in a mentoring program that pairs adolescent girls with college women mentors for 1 year of mentoring. Mentoring relationship quality was the hypothesized mechanism of change and was included in the analysis as a mediator. Results revealed that maternal relationship characteristics (i.e., maternal quality communication/trust and maternal alienation) were directly related to academic and behavioral outcomes of mentoring. The relationship between maternal relationship characteristics and behavioral outcomes was mediated by mentoring relationship quality. Results suggested that girls with stronger maternal quality communication and trust as well as girls who felt more alienated from their mothers may benefit more from mentoring. Results can be used to inform mentor training to include a focus on relationship development with girls experiencing a variety of relational difficulties with their mothers to help improve targeted mentoring outcomes.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
This study tested the hypothesis that maternal relationship characteristics of early adolescent girls (i.e., maternal communication/trust and alienation) could impact academic and behavioral outcomes targeted by mentoring programs. Further, we hypothesized that the quality of the mentoring relationship may mediate the relations between youth’s maternal relationship quality and the outcomes targeted by youth mentoring programs. Results may help explain the conditions under which some mentees may develop a strong mentoring relationship and benefit from mentoring as compared with those who do not. Results suggest that maternal relationship challenges can set the context for the development of the mentoring relationship, which, in turn, influences overall outcomes of mentoring.
The results of this study suggested that preexisting relationship characteristics may affect the extent to which early adolescent girls benefit from mentoring due to their impact on the quality of the mentoring relationship. Specifically, results indicated that the relationship between maternal relationship characteristics and behavioral outcomes targeted by mentoring programs was mediated by mentoring relationship quality. Girls who experience more alienation from their mothers tended to have stronger mentoring relationships and thus may gain more from mentoring than girls who are not as in need of the support of a mentor. However, girls who have communication and trust challenges in their maternal relationships may have more difficulty developing a strong mentoring relationship, which impacts the extent to which they ultimately benefit from mentoring, especially in the improvement of relationally based skills.
In addition, consistent with prior work (Williamson et al., 2019), the estimates for the relations between maternal relationship quality and mentoring relationship quality tended to be small and positive. Unexpectedly, we also found a positive association between maternal alienation and grades. This finding may suggest that maternal alienation (i.e., girls feelings of disconnection from their mothers) operates differently than maternal communication and trust (i.e., girls’ perceptions of the quality of their communication with their mothers and how much they can trust them) for this population. One explanation for this counterintuitive finding is that girls who are feeling disconnected from their mothers may be more open to help and support from teachers or other adults at school, which could help improve their grades. However, further studies are needed to evaluate different types of relationship challenges during this developmental stage and how they impact outcomes for youth.
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