Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean Rhodes

Second Advisor

Renee Spencer

Third Advisor

Heidi Levitt


The purpose of this longitudinal qualitative study was to investigate youth experiences of trust and mentor experiences supporting youth trust in longer-term formal youth mentoring relationships. Trust was defined as youth relying on and confiding in their mentors based on experiences of mentor reliability, honesty, and emotional sensitivity and protection from emotional harm. Thematic analysis was conducted on interview data from a longitudinal dataset, involving analysis of narratives from interviews (n=147) with youth, mentors, and parents for mentoring matches that lasted at least two years. Overall, participants in this study identified multiple ways trust was experienced by youth and supported by mentors. Additionally, various experiences seemed more or less critical depending on the timepoint in the relationship. Mutuality in confiding--involving mentor intentionality around making such confiding developmentally appropriate, appropriate to the nature of the mentoring relationship, and done in the service of the mentee and not the mentor--was a central way youth experienced trust and mentors supported youth trust. Youth demonstrated considerable strengths in wanting to rely on and confide in their mentors, in valuing such experiences for the emotional support and meaningful well-being they conferred, and in being self-protective around engaging in these experiences depending on various aspects of mentor attunement, time, and level of trust developed in the relationship. Youth experiences of trust became, over time, more multifaceted, and as such, some events that may have seemed negative or that perhaps carried greater potential for rupture in the beginning of the relationship seemed understood and experienced by youth as weighing less heavily as time went on and trust was known in many ways. While these experiences seemed to play out somewhat uniquely in each match, the themes found in this study captured common elements shared across these longer-term matches. Sociopolitical context and social ecology were found to be important for the development of youth trust. Two main contextual themes highlighted in this study, talking about race and racism, and family involvement, were especially important for supporting meaningful and beneficial experiences of youth trust in this context and setting. Implications for research and practice are discussed.