Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean E. Rhodes

Second Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Third Advisor

Laurel Wainwright


In studies of natural mentoring, youth have typically been asked to identify a mentor, someone who fits the following criteria: an older "special" or "very important" adult whom they admire, someone they can go to for guidance, and/or to help make an important decision. Many adolescents may be unfamiliar with the term "mentor", or feel that the everyday adults in their lives do not merit this somewhat lofty designation. In the current study, we attempt to shift the balance from youth being asked to identify someone whom they like and admire, to their identifying someone who "gets" them. "Gets" means a caring non-parental adult whom they feel likes and understands them, we conceptualize being "gotten" as perceived relational engagement. Participants included 1,860 15-years-olds from across the United States who participated in the national Teen Voice survey. Within this context, we examined the nature of the specific behaviors of adults who "get" youth through the use of both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses; results yielded two distinct yet related factors, attunement and opportunity. Using a person-centered approach, we explored associations between levels (No Gets, Not Connected, Moderate Gets, and High Gets) of relational engagement with such adults and positive youth development (PYD) outcomes. The High Gets group showed significantly higher levels of school effort, hopeful purpose, GPA, and civic engagement than the No Gets and Not Connected groups. Structural equation modeling was used to model the processes through which such adults promote a range of developmental outcomes. Results demonstrate that perceived relational engagement is positively related to the developmental outcomes of both GPA and civic engagement, through indirect pathways of the developmental assets of both school effort and hopeful purpose. This study also examined whether or not youth endorse that they have a mentor and associated developmental outcomes in order to provide a comparison with more traditional measures of conceptualizing adult-youth relationships. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


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