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The Characteristics of Organic Youth Mentoring Relationships: A Qualitative Study


Naturally occurring mentoring relationships, interchangeably referred to as organic mentorships, have been defined as an emotional bond between a youth and nonparental adult, who provides support and guidance to the youth as a result of the relationship being developed without the assistance of a program designed to foster such connection among youth and adults (DuBois & Karcher, 2005). Natural mentors, or important nonparental adults who youth encounter through their existing social networks, are an important resource for at-risk Latino/a youth as they transition to adulthood. Natural mentoring research to date has primarily investigated the presence or absence of a mentoring relationship and its affect on youth outcomes. An extensive, exploratory, qualitative method was employed to analyze specific relationship qualities and processes among high-risk Latino/a youth and their adult natural mentors. Eight Latino/a youth individuals (3 females and 5 males) and three adult mentors (1 female and 2 males) participated in the study. The results indicated that both youth and adult participants had individual characteristics that promoted and supported the connectedness and emotional bond in their natural mentoring relationships. Furthermore, the findings implied that bonding through shared life experiences and the mentor altering the relationship according to the needs of the youth could help cultivate long-lasting and meaningful relationships for high-risk Latino/a youth and their natural adult mentors. Several domains and core ideas emerged, which are consistent with the previous theoretical literature, as well as some new findings.

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