Mentor relationship quality predicts the quality of other important relationships

Thomson, N., & Zand, D. (2010). Mentees’ perceptions of their interpersonal relationships: The role of  the mentor-youth bond. Youth Society, 41, 434-447.

Mentor relationship quality as a predictor of other important relationships


A primary way in which mentors influence mentees is by altering the youths’ view of their own interpersonal relationships  It is believed that quality of the mentoring relationship may play an important factor in this reworking of youths’ perceptions, however, there has yet to be a direct examination of the role that the quality of the mentee-mentor relationship plays in this mechanism of change. Therefore, Thomson and Zand designed the current study to see if a mentee’s view of relationship quality with his or her mentor is able to predict specific relationship-based outcomes.


The current study examined 205 youth and mentor relationships from Project: Youth Connect (PYC), which aims to prevent, reduce, and delay substance abuse among at-risk youth (students identified as economically disadvantaged and/or having academic issues). Mentors were trained on effective relationships, strategies for working with at-risk youth, substance abuse issues, as well as developing personal competencies. Attempts were made to match youth and mentors based on same-sex and same-race; the pairs met for at least 2 hours per week and engaged in activities with the following content:

  • alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention
  • academic support; tutoring
  • life skills (i.e. goal setting)
  • positive recreational activities (i.e. movies)
  • cultural enhancement (i.e. community events)

Youth completed the Mentoring- Youth Alliance Scale (MYAS) to assess mentoring relationship quality at 8-month and 16-month follow up; the scale focuses the relational processes of authenticity, empathy, and companionship that have been found to be characteristic of successful mentoring relationships (Spencer, 2006).  They also completed measures on their perception of their own attachment to their primary caregiver, and their friendship with other adults.


The study demonstrated that the quality of mentoring relationship predicted the following:

  • Current Attachment to parents (at 8-months but not at 16-months)
  • Youths’ self-disclosure to adults (at both 8 & 16-months)
  • Youths’ friendships with adults(at both 8 & 16-months)
    • interestingly, younger youth reported better friendships with adults than older yout


This study moved beyond the limits of comparing mentored versus non-mentored youth by offering a direct investigation of mentor-youth relationship quality and how that can improve youths’ other interpersonal relationships. Overall, the results show that the quality of the mentoring relationship after an 8-month period is able to predict a variety of other important relationship-based outcomes.


These findings underscore the importance of developing high quality mentor-mentee relationships; specifically relationships that are viewed by the youth as authentic, empathetic, and offer companionship. Accordingly, future efforts to train mentors should focus on these three relational processes in order to help improve other important relationships in the lives of their mentees.

Summarized by UMB clinical psychology doctoral student Laura Yoviene.