Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean Rhodes

Second Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Third Advisor

Janis Kupersmidt


Few studies have examined mentoring as a protective factor for trauma-exposed youth. Relying on a nationally representative sample from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, this study explored if mentoring was a protective factor for those with trauma exposure transitioning into adulthood. Adolescents (n=12,270) in grades 7-12 were assessed in 1994-1995, 1996, 2001-2002, and 2008. Based on this data, descriptive statistics and regressions were conducted to: (1) determine if interpersonal trauma exposure in childhood and adolescence was associated with adverse outcomes in adulthood; (2) describe the prevalence rate and characteristics of natural mentoring in youth with interpersonal trauma exposure; (3) determine if mentoring in adolescence was associated with a protective influence in adulthood; (4) determine if longer relationships were more protective.

Results indicated that trauma in childhood and adolescence was relatively common and associated with a wide range of adverse biopsychosocial outcomes in adulthood. Natural mentoring was also widespread; over 70% of youth with histories of trauma exposure reported mentoring. Relationships lasted six years on average. Physical abuse was positively associated with identifying a mentor, but relationships were less durable. Neglect was negatively associated with identifying a mentor, however it was not related to a reduced strength of mentoring.

For all youth, the presence of a mentor reported in adolescence was negatively associated with health limitations. For those with and without neglect or violence exposure, mentoring was associated with both educational attainment and alcohol use in adulthood. A greater frequency of neglect was negatively associated with violent anti-social behavior in adulthood.

Longer mentoring relationships during adolescence were related to decreased non-violent antisocial behavior, substance use, binge drinking and educational attainment in adulthood. Youth with abuse and those with adolescent violence exposure were at higher risk for suicidality and violent antisocial behavior, respectively. These groups differentially benefited from longer mentoring relationships. Findings provide a critical first step in understanding the landscape of natural mentoring for youth with varying levels of trauma exposure transitioning into adulthood.


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