The transition to college involves a number of novel stressors for young adults and represents a period of heightened risk for the onset or worsening of diverse mental health problems. The presence of natural mentors may be one factor which alleviates risk for mental health problems in college first-year students. Using a diverse sample of 275 first-year college students, the present study examined the effects of different types of natural mentors within students’ support networks on internalizing symptoms during the first semester of college. In addition, analyses explored whether different student approaches to emotion regulation were one mechanism by which natural mentors influence internalizing symptoms. Path analyses indicated that students with a greater number of close family member/family friend mentors reported less emotion suppression, which in turn accounted for the associations between these mentoring relationships and reduced depressive symptoms and worry at follow-up. In contrast, less emotionally close mentors, such as teachers or coworkers, did not significantly shape emotion regulation strategies or internalizing symptom outcomes. Results have implications for the design of more targeted interventions that promote emotional well-being in college first-year students.
Highlights (from article)
- Natural mentoring relationships may exert protective effects through emotion regulation processes.
- Underrepresented college students report having fewer natural mentoring relationships.
- Strong ties are associated with depression and worry in part via reduced emotion suppression.
- Less emotionally close ties are not associated with mentee emotion regulation strategies.