New study examines effects of cross-age mentoring on mentors of color from low-income, urban communities

Quimby, D., Richards, M., Onyeka, O. “Cynthia,” Miller, K., Tyson-McCrea, K., Smith, Z., & Denton, D. (2022). The effects of cross-age peer mentoring on adolescent mentors of color residing in low income, urban communities. Youth & Society.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Evidence indicates that cross-age peer mentoring can benefit adolescent mentors.
  • Given that mentoring research also tends to center on White, middle-class mentors, it’s important to understand how peer mentorships impact communities of color.
  • This study assesses the potential benefits of cross-age mentorships for Black and Latinx adolescent mentors who live in urban, low-income communities.
  • Mentoring relationship quality, as opposed to mentoring quantity, predicted various positive mentor outcomes, such as improved contribution, character, empathy, self-efficacy, & GPA after the program ended and during the 9th to the 12th-month follow-up periods.
  • Researchers introduce an adapted model of adolescent mentor development in culturally matched cross-age peer mentoring.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

The current study seeks to understand the potential benefits of culturally matched cross-age peer mentoring for Black and Latinx adolescent mentors residing in low-income, urban communities. Data for the study were derived from a 4-year longitudinal project examining the effectiveness of community-based cross-age mentoring. Data from the current sample (N = 249, 60.6% female, M = 16.72 years) were analyzed using HLM. Findings indicated that the mentoring relationship bond rather than attendance predicted change on several positive outcomes. Adolescent mentors were found to experience improvements in several areas of positive youth development, ethnic identity, and GPA after the program was completed and at 9 to 12 months follow up. Researchers propose an adapted theoretical model of the impacts of youth cross-age mentoring in low-income communities of color. Findings from the current study offer key information on the value of facilitating empowering, person-focused services in concert with members of marginalized communities.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The current findings shed light on a little explored area of mentoring, Black and Latinx adolescents’ experience of mentoring younger peers residing in low-income, urban communities. Unlike mentoring quantity, mentor relationship quality predicted several positive outcomes for mentors including improved empathy, self-efficacy, character, contribution, and GPA at the end of the program and improved self-efficacy, leadership, character, contribution, empathy, ethnic identity, and GPA 9 to 12 months after the program ended. These results highlight the importance of the relationship bond for long-term positive outcomes. Similar to the positive outcomes found in predominantly White, middle-class samples of youth (Karcher, 2008, 2014; St. Vil & Angel, 2018), it appears that Black and Latinx youth from low-income, urban communities can also experience significant benefits from being mentors in culturally matched cross-age peer mentoring relationships.

To better capture how mentoring relationships impact adolescent mentors, the current study proposes an adapted version of the Rhodes (2005) mentoring model of mentee development. The current model (Figure 1) aims to clarify this study’s findings and improve the understanding of the development of adolescent mentors of color residing in high stress communities. In addition to a bond that is shaped by mutuality, trust, and empathy emphasized in the Rhodes model for mentees, the current study posits that cultural resonance (e.g., representing and connecting with similar racial, class, and other social identities and values) is also a key aspect of the mentoring relationship for youth of color in culturally matched pairings (component a in Figure 1). Our mentor co-researcher highlighted this finding in his review, reporting that the mentor-mentee relationship was promoted by the mentor being “in the same spot” as their mentees and sharing similar life situations. In U.S. society where negative racial stereotypes about youth of color have pervaded the media (Bogert & Hancock, 2020), enabling youth to experience their own strengths through mentoring, and the strengths of their fellow mentors and mentees, can have profound developmental importance. Notably, relationship quality was a more consistent predictor of positive outcomes than mentoring quantity, which indicates the increased importance of developing a strong bond for this sample of youth. As previously discussed, the importance of interpersonal relationships in shaping positive outcomes is culturally consistent (Raeff et al., 2007), and enables youth of color to build on their communities’ social capital (Yosso, 2005).

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