The relationship between adolescent characteristics and the quality of their natural mentors
Rychener, Stacey Renee
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The origin of the word mentor comes from ancient Greece when Odysseus entrusted his house and son Telemachus to an old man called Mentor when he set off on a journey (Merriam, 1983). Research has found that natural mentors play important role in supporting resilient outcomes for at-risk adolescents (Garmezy, 1993). Seventy-four adolescents from families with low SES backgrounds completed a questionnaire on their personal characteristics and their natural mentoring relationships. Results indicated that parents, adult relatives, unrelated adults, and peers were all named and as and seen as fulfilling the different mentoring roles. However, several findings indicated that fathers were not only less likely to be viewed as a mentor, but adolescents viewed the relationship as less functional than mothers, adult relatives, unrelated adults, and peers. Based on 10 qualitative interviews with the adolescents, it was found that adolescents were more likely to choose a male mentor. Adolescents generally were involved in a mutual activity with the mentor for around 3 to 4 years that involved both weekly one-on-one and group contact with the mentor. Finally, adolescents were drawn to their mentors for the following reasons: the mentor's area of expertise, their attitude and personality, intelligence, education, and willingness to help and sacrifice for others. Given that many mentoring programs target at-risk adolescents, it is particularly important to examine the quality and context of these natural mentoring relationships to develop more effective mentoring programs for adolescents in need of a supportive relationship.