Fallavollita, W. L., & Lyons, M. D. (2023). Social acceptance from peers and youth mentoring: Implications for addressing loneliness and social isolation. Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.23002
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Due to increasing popularity, youth mentoring programs have more service delivery options (school-based mentoring, community-based mentoring, skill development mentoring, mentor-mentee relationships, etc.).
- Peer acceptance and rejection play an influential role in adolescents’ sense of belonging and loneliness.
- Close youth mentoring relationships can improve mentees’ relationships with other people (peers, teachers, and parents).
- This study evaluated the relationship between youth mentoring participation and peer social acceptance.
- More specifically, it assessed how mentees’ experiences and emotions about mentor-mentee relationships correlate with social acceptance outcomes.
- It also examined a) the moderating effects of social acceptance baseline levels and b) the factor structure of the social acceptance scale used by Big Brothers Big Sisters.
- There were no notable changes in peer social acceptance before and after the mentoring program.
- The social acceptance scale indicated that there are two factors that demonstrate how mentees grapple with their relationships with their peers and can have implications on what mentoring programs can do to address social isolation and loneliness.
- Positive indicator:
- Quality of being sociable with peers
- Low positive indicator scores better align with social isolation
- Negative indicator:
- Desiring more peer relationships
- High negative indicator scores may be more indicative of loneliness.
- There is an interrelationship between the strength of mentoring relationships and peer social acceptance outcomes.
- Mentees’ positive emotions about their relationships with their mentors had a near-significant correlation with positive indicators of peer acceptance.
- Mentees’ negative emotions about their relationships with their mentors correlated with negative indicators of peer acceptance.
- These findings indicate that mentees’ thoughts about their relationships with their mentors are, on average, similar to their thoughts about their peers.
- Mentoring relationships are the most beneficial for mentees who have fewer relationships but do not necessarily feel lonely.
- Interpersonal history might be a potential moderator for mentoring relationship strength and mentoring outcomes.
- Although non-specific mentor-mentee relationships are beneficial, mentoring cannot address youth social isolation and loneliness alone.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Youth mentoring may be able to support lonely and socially isolated youth. This study examined the association between participating in youth mentoring programs and mentee perception of social acceptance from peers. Regression models considered the association between mentoring and peer social acceptance in terms of demographics, program features, and baseline peer relationship quality for 693 youth from 27 mentoring programs. The construct validity of a social acceptance scale was explored. The scale suggested two factors of peer social acceptance. No significant changes in peer social acceptance were observed before and after participating in mentoring programs. Trends in social acceptance indicated that positive/negative feelings in the mentor−mentee relationship were associated with positive/negative indicators of peer social acceptance. Mentoring programs may be able to help prevent loneliness and social isolation through positive aspects of the mentor−mentee relationships, but additional intervention activities are likely necessary to support lonely and socially isolated youth.
Implications (Reprinted from the Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations)
Youth mentoring has been proposed as a service that could be capable of addressing the needs of lonely and socially isolated youth (National Mentoring Resource Center, 2021; Keller et al., 2020). The current study examined the association between participation in youth mentoring programs and mentee perception of social acceptance from peers, to understand how mentoring may be able to support youth with poor peer relationships at risk for loneliness and social isolation. Specifically, we tested how positive or negative feelings and experiences in the mentor−mentee relationship were associated with social acceptance outcomes, and the moderating effects of baseline levels of social acceptance. In addition, we examined the factor structure of a social acceptance scale used by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Although no changes in social acceptance were observed before and after participating in mentoring programs, on average, trends in social acceptance indicated that mentees who experienced positive/negative feelings in the mentor−mentee relationship were more likely to report positive/negative indicators of social acceptance from peers, suggesting potential for youth mentoring as a prevention service for loneliness and social isolation.
Analysis of the social acceptance scale suggested two factors were measured in the sample of mentees. The “positive indicators” of social acceptance described the quality of being sociable with peers, while the “negative indicators” of social acceptance described desiring a greater number of peer relationships. Therefore, low scores on the positive indicators seem to be better aligned with social isolation (Ma et al., 2020), while high scores on the negative indicators may be more indicative of loneliness (Peplau & Perlman, 1982). These factors followed the positive and negative keying scheme of the original social competence scale (Harter, 1985), which indicated feeling of competence and inadequacy (Harter, 2012). In our sample, the factors were negatively correlated (r = 0.5), which aligns with the negative association between friendships and loneliness (Renshaw & Brown, 1993). Overlap between these two factors also illustrates the importance of perception in feelings of loneliness and subjective social isolation, for example having friendships and still feeling lonely (Asher & Paquette, 2003).
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