Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean E. Rhodes

Second Advisor

Elizabeth B. Raposa

Third Advisor

Alice Carter


Supportive bonds between youth and nonparent adults that arise organically within existing social networks, or natural mentoring relationships, are associated with a range of positive youth outcomes. However, little is known about what motivates and enables youth to acquire a natural mentor. This study analyzed data from the youth, ages 9 to 16 (M = 11.20, SD = 1.61), in a waitlist control group who participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring Impact Study. Of youth who reported not having a natural mentor at baseline (n =193), 46.1% acquired a natural mentor over the course of the year. Contrary to hypotheses, parent relationship quality did not indirectly predict natural mentor acquisition via school engagement or peer-directed prosocial behavior. Consistent with hypotheses, results revealed a significant interaction between stress and peer-directed prosocial behavior in predicting the acquisition of a natural mentor. At low levels of stress, peer-directed prosocial behavior was significantly and negatively associated with natural mentor acquisition. However, this negative association between peer-directed prosocial behavior and natural mentor acquisition diminished with increasing numbers of stressors. These findings highlight the importance of assessing youth in the context of external stressors and might inform a new generation of mentoring interventions aimed at empowering youth to recruit support from nonparent adults.


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