Natural Mentoring Relationships and Adolescent Health: Evidence From a National Study
Objectives. We used nationally representative data to examine the impact of natural (or informal) mentoring relationships on health-related outcomes among older adolescents and young adults. Methods. We examined outcomes from Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health as a function of whether or not respondents reported a mentoring relationship. Logistic regression was used with control for demographic variables, previous level of functioning, and individual and environmental risk. Results. Respondents who reported a mentoring relationship were more likely to exhibit favorable outcomes relating to education/work (completing high school, college attendance, working [≥] 10 hours a week), reduced problem behavior (gang membership, hurting others in physical fights, risk taking), psychological well-being (heightened self-esteem, life satisfaction), and health (physical activity level, birth control use). However, effects of exposure to individual and environmental risk factors generally were larger in magnitude than protective effects associated with mentoring. Conclusions. These findings suggest a broad and multifaceted impact of mentoring relationships on adolescent health. However, mentoring relationships alone are not enough to meet the needs of at-risk youths and therefore should be incorporated into more comprehensive interventions.