New study on barriers to forming natural mentoring relationships in Latinx youth

Monjaras-Gaytan, L. Y., Sánchez, B., & Smith Carter, J. (2020). Developing natural mentoring relationships among latinx youth: the roles of trust in adults and stressors. Applied Developmental Science, 1-12.

Summarized by Cyanea Poon  

Notes of Interest:

  • Latinx youth face social inequalities that may impede them from becoming adults who can achieve their educational and career goals, and one way to support Latinx youth is to provide mentoring.
  • This study aims to
    • examine the longitudinal role of Latinx adolescents’ trust toward adults in the formation of new natural mentoring relationships
    • Examine how stressors may be impacting quality of mentoring relationships
  • Trust did not significantly predict the formation of natural mentoring relationships
  • More stressful life events is associated with lower mentoring relationship quality at a later time point
  • Practitioners should provide targeted support to youth and their natural mentors when youth are experiencing more stressors to help them develop close bonds.


Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Mentoring is one avenue to support Latinx adolescents in their positive development. The current study examined the roles of stressors and interpersonal trust toward adults in the formation and quality (instrumental and relational) of natural mentoring relationships. Participants were 347 Latinx adolescents who were surveyed in the 9th and 10th grades. Analyses demonstrated that more trust toward adults in 9th grade was not significantly associated with the formation of a new mentoring relationship in 10th grade but was associated with higher instrumental and relational mentoring quality in 10th grade. Furthermore, reporting more life stressors in 9th grade significantly predicted the formation of new mentoring relationships but lower relational quality in 10th grade. This study fills gaps in the literature on youth and environmental characteristics that predict the development of new natural mentoring relationships over time in a Latinx sample. Implications for future research and interventions are discussed.


Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

There are practical implications based on this study. Practitioners should provide targeted support to youth and their natural mentors when youth are experiencing more stressors to help them develop close bonds. These adolescents and relationships might be vulnerable and have difficulty getting the most out of mentoring. Mentors and other nonparental adults can also be trained on how to gain the trust of adolescents and on how to support adolescents who are experiencing more environmental stressors. Finally, interventionists should find ways to support both the youth and nonparental adults in their lives who are experiencing more stressors.

More research is needed to better understand the formation of natural mentoring relationships (NMRs) and the shifts in the kinds of NMRs that are developed. Future longitudinal studies should examine when and how NMRs develop and become significant, changes in relationship quality and factors that may contribute to them ending, weakening or strengthening. Given the mixed findings about the role of stressors in predicting the formation of NMRs and their quality, the youth mentoring field would benefit from investigating whether there are patterns in the kinds of mentoring relationships (e.g., familial, nonfamilial) that are gained or dropped over time as a result of environmental stressors. Perhaps Latinx youth go to certain types of mentors for particular stressors or perhaps certain stressors compromise the quality of particular mentoring relationships that are formed. Future researchers should also examine help-seeking behaviors as a possible mediator between stressors and the presence of NMRs to better understand how stres- sors and mentoring relationships are associated. Additional individual-level factors (e.g., personality, social skills) should be studied to better distinguish the youth characteristics that inhibit or promote NMRs. Determining which characteristics are more predictive of these relationships may allow mentoring practi- tioners and researchers to identify which adolescents are less/more likely to form these relationships, in order to determine who would benefit from mentoring interventions. Researchers should examine other envir- onmental factors (e.g., setting climate, ratio of adults of color) that influence the formation of NMRs among Latinx youth to help practitioners and educators create settings that facilitate close and positive bonds between adolescents and adults. Finally, researchers should investigate the roles of interpersonal trust toward adults and stressors in volunteer mentoring programs to determine whether the current study findings are applicable in those settings.