New study explores how mentoring relationship type, duration, and quality, impact academic and social functioning in college

McClain, C. M., Kelner, W. C., & Elledge, L. C. (2021). Youth Mentoring Relationships and College Social and Academic Functioning: The Role of Mentoring Relationship Quality, Duration, and Type. American Journal of Community Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Youth mentoring relationships are known for improving social, academic, psychological, and behavioral outcomes for children and adolescents.
  • There is still uncertainty about what are the best conditions for mentees to take full advantage of mentoring benefits throughout their childhood and teenage years.
    • There’s also the question of whether these benefits can extend into a person’s adulthood.
  • This study explores 1) how college students’ mentoring experiences correlated with college motivation, college self-efficiency, and current sense of belonging and; 2) how relationship type, duration, and quality affect these outcomes.
  • Having a youth mentor correlates with increased college self-efficacy.
  • Mentoring relationship quality was the most important factor for college-related outcomes.
  • High relationship quality is predictive of an increased sense of belonging in short and average-lasting relationships.
  • Relationship quality correlates with higher academic motivation for program-sponsored mentors.
  • High relationship quality is associated with college self-efficiency and an increased sense of belonging for natural mentors.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

The aim of the present study was to examine how college students’ retrospective reports of youth-mentoring experiences were associated with current sense of belonging and community, academic motivation, and college self-efficacy, and to determine hows these outcomes vary as a function of mentoring relationship quality, duration, and type (e.g., natural versus program-sponsored). Analyses were conducted in Mplus 8.0 on a sample of 400 college students. Our findings suggest that most college students endorse a mentoring relationship. We found that having a mentor was associated with increased college self-efficacy. Among those with a youth mentor, relationship quality was positively associated with sense of belonging and college self-efficacy while duration of the mentoring relationship and relationship type were not associated with college-related outcomes. Further analyses were conducted to assess how the associations between relationship quality and the college-related outcomes varied as a function of mentoring duration and type. Relationship quality was uniquely associated with these college-related outcomes over and above student gender, race, and first-generation status. Our findings suggest it may be important to prioritize the enhancement of mentor relationship quality as a mechanism to affect change in academic-related outcomes.

Implications (Reprinted from the Conclusion)

The current investigation first examined whether having a youth mentor is associated with four college-related adjustment and academic outcomes. Next, we used a series of analyses to better understand how aspects of mentoring (quality, type, and duration) differentially affect those same outcomes. We found that most college students had a youth mentor, with the majority reporting natural mentoring relationships. Across aims, our results suggest that youth mentoring and aspects of mentoring, particularly relationship quality, are uniquely associated with these college-related outcomes over and above student gender, race, and first-generation status.

For Aim 1, we found partial support for our hypothesis. Students who endorsed having a mentor in childhood or adolescence reported higher college self-efficacy than those not reporting a mentor. It appears that having a mentor may provide students with more confidence in their ability to perform a variety of tasks in college. This result is consistent with existing literature that suggests that mentoring can provide improvements to both general self-efficacy and scholastic self-efficacy in the short and long term (DeFreitas & Bravo, 2012; DuBois et al., 2011; Miranda-Chan et al., 2016; Wheeler et al., 2010). Our results suggest that childhood mentoring is positively associated with how confident students feel in their capacity to use their given resources and skills in order to engage in the myriad experiences necessary to successfully navigate college (e.g., make friends, keep up with academic tasks, and speak with instructors).

Interestingly, youth mentoring was not associated with students’ sense of belonging, sense of community at the university, or academic motivation. Youth mentoring is typically found to provide improvements in both educational outcomes (e.g., higher educational attainment) and psychological and social outcomes (DuBois & Silverthorn, 2005; Miranda-Chan et al., 2016), but our results suggest that, over time, the impact may be more salient with regards to academic efficacy. Furthermore, our findings indicate that youth mentoring may be less likely to exert influence on students’ feelings of fitting in and being accepted; on students’ sense of connection with their university community; and on students’ willingness to put effort into learning as young adults. It is possible that youth mentoring leads to improvements in these domains, but the effects are contained to that particular environment and time (e.g., the school or community within which the childhood mentoring is taking place).

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