The buffer zone: Mentoring as protective from school-based racism among African American boys

Kahra, A., Thomas, A., Gale, A., & Rowley, S. (2024). The influence of racial socialization, mentor support, and emotion regulation on the psychological well-being of African American boys. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.


School-based racial discrimination presents a significant risk to the psychological well-being of African American adolescents, often leading to negative mental health outcomes and academic setbacks. 

Kahra et al. (2024) investigated the roles of emotion regulation, mentor support, and parental racial socialization (i.e., pride and self-worth) in helping African American boys cope with school-based racial discrimination.


Cross-sectional survey data was used from the Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context (CSBYC) from 487 African American boys aged 12 to 18 years (M = 14.33, SD = 1.62) from schools in Southeastern Michigan. 

Surveys assessed psychological well-being (Ryff, 1989), school-based perceived racial discrimination (Eccles et al., 2006), informal adult mentor support, parental racial socialization (Lesane-Brown et al., 2006) and emotion regulation (Spence, 1995).

Multiple linear regression was used to test the main effects of all variables on psychological well-being, as well as to examine interactions between experienced racism and each socio-emotional factor on psychological well-being. 


Expectedly, school-based racial discrimination was negatively correlated with psychological well-being. Emotion regulation and parenting messages of racial pride and self-worth were positively correlated with psychological well-being.

Interestingly, only mentoring support emerged as a significant moderator. Specifically, high levels of mentoring support reduced the effects of perceived racism in school on psychological well-being.


The study highlights the importance of emotion regulation and parental racial socialization in promoting the psychological well-being of African American boys. 

Further, the presence of an informal adult mentor played a crucial protective role in buffering the negative impacts of racial discrimination. 

Findings suggest that interventions aimed at enhancing emotion regulation skills and providing supportive mentoring relationships can be effective in mitigating the adverse effects of racial discrimination on African American adolescents. 


  • Findings underscore the critical role of culturally responsive mentoring programs in supporting African American boys. 
  • Mentor training programs, like those found within MentorPRO Academy, will want to consider integrating skills to foster mentee resilience against racial discrimination.

Read the article here