Nurturing Bonds: The Link Between Caregiver Attachment and Mentorship Among Black Teens

Midsection of african american father and son sitting on couch in living room holding hands.

Reference: Charity-Parker, B. M., Negrete, A., Deutsch, N. L., & Hurd, N. M. (2023). A Mixed Method Investigation of Associations Between Caregiver Attachment and Natural Mentoring Relationships Among Black Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 07435584231189213.

Summarized by: Ellen Parry Luff

About the Study

Through natural mentoring we can see how informal bonds formed with caring non-parental adults often positively impact adolescent development. However, research focusing on the formation and implications of such relationships among Black adolescents remains limited. In a society where systemic racism impacts Black youths’ development, this research aims to shed light on the factors that shape Black adolescents’ perceptions of adults outside of their immediate family. In particular the study looks at parental attachment and its subsequent influence on Black adolescents’ mentoring relationships. Employing a mixed-method approach, the study combines quantitative survey data with qualitative insights from interviews conducted with both adolescents and parents. By exploring the intricate interplay between parental attachment and the perception of adults as sources of support, the study seeks to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of how attachment processes in the Black family context impact adolescents’ pursuit of healthy interpersonal bonds beyond their immediate family.

Key Findings:

  • Identifying as extroverted was associated with an increased number of natural mentors and increased perception of adults as helpful. Being socioeconomically disadvantaged was linked to perceiving adults as helpful. Gender only affected how likely someone was to be extroverted. 
  • While quality of attachment didn’t directly affect the quantity of natural mentoring relationships, better attachment indirectly led to more natural mentors by fostering positive perceptions of adults as helpful.
  • Messages from parents about adult trustworthiness impacted adolescents’ views. Experiences with other adults and adolescents’ own attributes also shaped attitudes. Positive interactions/relationships fostered openness, while strained relationships led to skepticism. 
  • Strong attachment was marked by parental attunement, meaning parents understood and responded to adolescents’ emotions and needs. Parents being the primary confidant and dependable source of support also indicated strong attachment.

Implications for Mentoring 

From this study, we gain crucial insights into the impact of family dynamics on Black adolescents’ perception of and engagement with non-parental adults. Attachment bonds, parental messages about adults, and personal experiences all play a role in adolescents’ attitudes, and their unique dispositions also matter a lot. As we work on interventions to bolster relationships between Black youth and supportive adults, it’s imperative to consider individual differences. For example, understanding the interplay between adolescents’ temperaments and the quantity of non-parental adult relationships is an important area for future research. Furthermore, focusing on the enduring significance of parent-child relationships in interventions holds promise for expanding the network of supportive adults available to Black adolescents. Focusing on these areas will help programs help youth and adults cultivate positive mentoring relationships. By looking at these areas these programs will be especially helpful for those with less secure attachment or introverted tendencies. One area future research should focus on is examining how different types of parental relationships impact the development of natural mentoring relationships. An inclusive approach encompassing diverse parental roles is crucial for interventions that aim to foster positive intergenerational connections among Black adolescents and adults. 

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