What benefits does mentoring have on the developmental outcomes of Latinx youths? New review has answers!

de los Reyes, W., Sánchez, B., Polo, A., Quiroz, A., Thursby, K., O’Donnell, A., & Monjaras-Gaytan, L. Y. (2021). Mentoring Latinx Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Adolescent Research Review. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40894-021-00156-3

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Although many youth mentoring programs serve youths of color, there is still uncertainty about whether they are designed to address their specific needs.
  • Mentoring relationships might serve as a protective factor that promotes developmental outcomes for Latinx youths.
  • This systemic review examines the role formal and natural mentorships have on the developmental outcomes of Latinx youths in America.
  • Despite the mixed results in the articles reviewed, the findings pinpoint some potential benefits of mentoring Latinx youths.
    • For instance, these mentorships can improve psychological and academic outcomes, as well as outcomes pertaining to ethnic identity and language.
  • Various aspects of mentoring, such as mentor traits, relationship characteristics, & family involvement, correlate with improved developmental outcomes for Latinx youths.
  • Given the methodological issues of this study, there need to be more comprehensive studies that assess how mentoring relationships impact various aspects of youth-related outcomes.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Latinx children and adolescents are uniquely positioned within the U.S. context, historically experiencing both systemic and institutional failings. Mentoring relationships plays a protective role in healthy youth development and may alleviate some of the deficit narrative often placed upon Latinx youth. To better understand these potential benefits, this systematic review examined the current literature on the role of mentoring (i.e., both natural and formal mentoring) in a variety of developmental outcomes of Latinx children and adolescents in the U.S., ranging from kindergarten-age to under 18 years old. The 24 included studies had mixed results, yet findings pointed to a range of potential benefits for this population, such as improved academic and psychosocial outcomes, language and ethnic identity. Various components of mentoring—including mentor characteristics, relationship characteristics, and family involvement in mentoring programs—were also found to be related to Latinx youth’s improved developmental outcomes. However, methodological concerns in study designs limit what can be gleaned from these conclusions. Recommendations for future directions for research and intervention are provided.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This systematic review examines the role of mentoring in an understudied yet growing population in the U.S.: Latinx children and adolescents under 18 years of age. Due to systemic and interpersonal racism (e.g., Moreno & Gaytán, 2013; Solis et al., 2009), Latinx youth have unique needs. Previous research shows that nonparental adults can position themselves to connect Latinx youth to resources and opportunities (Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2003). Developing mentoring relationships in adolescence may also lead to improved outcomes for youth in the long-term, such as greater educational attainment and a higher income (Fruiht & Wray-Lake, 2013; Hagler & Rhodes, 2018). However, as exposure alone to a mentor from a privileged background is not enough to positively impact marginalized youth (Albright et al., 2017), this review examined how components of mentoring (e.g., relationship quality) influence youth outcomes, as well as the broad impacts of the presence of a mentor (both natural and formal). Altogether, 24 studies met inclusion criteria, 15 evaluating mentoring programs and nine on the presence of natural mentors. Examining the role of participating in a mentoring program and the presence of a natural mentor provided initial insight on the potential of mentoring. Surprisingly, only one RCT was identified (Karcher, 2008) that documented the impact of a mentoring program on Latinx youth specifically. The other evaluations of mentoring programs lacked experimental designs and had methodological limitations that temper the conclusions that can be drawn from them.

Studies of formal mentoring programs found that mentoring was related to a higher sense of school belonging, academic motivation (Phinney et al., 2011) and academic achievement (Coller & Kuo, 2014; Diversi & Mecham, 2005). However, two studies (Karcher, 2008; Phinney et al., 2011) did not find that mentoring led to improvements in grades. Some evidence also points to mentoring programs playing a positive role in parental communication and support (Barron-McKeagney et al., 2002), peer support (Karcher, 2008), children’s problem behaviors (Barron-McKeagney et al., 2001; Coller & Kuo, 2014; Diversi & Mecham, 2005), self-esteem (Karcher, 2008; Phinney et al., 2011), as well as decreasing depressive symptoms and stress (Kaplan et al., 2009; Phinney et al., 2011). Still, there were mixed results on the role of a mentoring program in psychosocial outcomes (Phinney et al., 2011). Only a few formal mentoring studies considered mentor characteristics (Diversi & Mecham, 2005; Karcher, 2008), none considered relationship characteristics, and only one evaluated parental involvement (Barron-McKeagney et al., 2002). The involvement of mothers in the Family Mentoring Program was related to better psychosocial outcomes for Latinx children (Barron-McKeagney et al., 2002).

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