New Study Explores Effects of Ethnic-Racial (Mis)Match on Relationship Strength

Koide et al. (2024). Ethnic-Racial (Mis)Match between Mentors and Mentees on Perceived Strength of Relationship, Education Sciences DO – 10.3390/educsci14040398


The quality of the mentoring relationship is considered a crucial determinant of these positive outcomes, with high-quality relationships linked to longer match durations and better youth outcomes.

One factor hypothesized to influence the development and quality of mentoring relationships is the ethnic-racial match between mentors and mentees. Some research suggests that shared ethnic-racial identities may facilitate trust, cultural understanding, and empowerment, leading to stronger connections. However, empirical studies examining the impacts of same-ethnic-racial versus cross-ethnic-racial matches on mentoring processes have yielded mixed findings[9][10][11].

This study aimed to expand upon the existing literature by explicitly examining how ethnic-racial matching affects the quality of the mentoring relationship over time, using data from a large nationwide sample of youth participating in a national mentoring program.


The study included 6,636 mentors and mentees from a nationwide youth mentoring program in the United States who completed the Strength of Relationship Survey at baseline and 9 months (± 4 weeks) after baseline. Mentor and mentee dyads were not randomly assigned but matched based on compatibility in personalities and preferences.

Participants self-reported data on gender, age, and ethnic-racial identity. Among the analytic sample, 53.2% (n = 3,528) of dyads shared an ethnic-racial identity. An “ethnic-racial match” dummy variable was created to indicate if mentors and mentees reported a shared ethnic-racial identity (coded as 1) or not (coded as 0).


Participants self-reported information related to race, ethnicity, gender, and age.

Youth Strength of Relationship Scale (Y-SOR): The Y-SOR is a 10-item instrument that assesses mentees’ perceptions of positive and negative qualities of the match relationship. It includes positive (e.g., “My Big has lots of good ideas about how to solve a problem”) and negative (e.g., “When I’m with my Big, I feel mad”) dimensions. Responses are measured on a 5-point Likert scale, with higher scores indicating stronger relationships. The Y-SOR has demonstrated good internal consistency (positive dimension α = 0.76, negative dimension α = 0.68) [12].

Analytic Approach

Bivariate Pearson correlations assessed the associations between Y-SOR positive and negative domain scores at separate time points. Two-step hierarchical multiple regression models tested whether ethnic-racial match affected mentees’ perceptions of positive and negative aspects of the relationship strength. Step 1 included mentor and mentee age, gender, mentee ethnic-racial identity, and baseline Y-SOR scores. Step 2 added ethnic-racial match and its interaction with baseline Y-SOR scores.


Correlations between Y-SOR positive scores at time 1 and 2 (r = 0.29, p < 0.01) and between negative scores (r = 0.21, p < 0.01) were positive and statistically significant. Correlations between positive and negative subscales were small but significant and negative (r’s = -0.07 to -0.21, p’s < 0.01).

For the positive dimension of relationship strength, ethnic-racial match did not significantly predict Y-SOR scores at follow-up (β = -0.06, p = 0.53), after controlling for demographics and baseline scores. White mentees reported more positive relationships compared to Black mentees (B = 0.04, p < 0.05).

For the negative dimension, ethnic-racial match predicted greater relationship dissatisfaction at follow-up (β = 0.12, p < 0.01). However, this effect was qualified by a significant interaction between ethnic-racial match and baseline negative Y-SOR scores (β = -0.13, p < 0.01). For youth in same-ethnic-racial matches, higher baseline relationship dissatisfaction was associated with less dissatisfaction at follow-up compared to cross-ethnic-racial matches (see Figure 1).


Consistent with previous research, ethnic-racial match did not significantly predict positive dimensions of the relationship at follow-up. However, same-ethnic-racial matches reported a lower rate of change and slightly less relationship dissatisfaction at follow-up compared to cross-ethnic-racial matches.

The results contribute to the existing literature showing mixed findings regarding ethnic-racial matching in youth mentorship programs. While ethnic-racial matching alone may be insufficient for predicting relationship quality, it may have a small protective effect against future relationship dissatisfaction when initial dissatisfaction is high.