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Time and trust trump all: An examination of social capital, race and class in mentoring relationships

What’s in a relationship? An examination of social capital, race and class in mentoring relationships

Gaddis, S. (2012). What’s in a relationship? An examination of social capital, race and class in mentoring relationships. Social Forces, 90 (4), 1237-1269.

Summarized by UMB doctoral student Laura Yoviene

Problem:

The concept of social capital has been widely identified as an important aspect of mentoring relationships. A mentor can provide valuable connections to young people, as well as knowledge and information that can open doors and lead to positive youth outcomes. In this paper, Gaddis investigates the factors that could lead to the kinds of mentoring relationships that open doors for young people. These factors included:

1) Amount of time spent together in a relationship

2) Racial similarity in a match

3) Youth’s level of trust for their mentor

4) Social class difference in a match

5) Closure/communication between parent and  mentor

Methodology:

Gaddis analyzed a random sample of 355 youth – mentor matches in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America Program (BBBSA) to determine how characteristics of relationships contributed to both academic success (grade point average (GPA), time spent on homework) and deviant behavior (self-reported alcohol and drug use).

Results:

The amount of time that mentors and youth spent together in a relationship (as measured through frequency of meetings and duration of relationships) was related to increases in students’ GPA.Trust in the mentor  was related to decreased deviant behaviors. In particular if a mentor made and kept promises teens showed decreased alcohol use.  Racial similarity in a mentor-mentee match and communication between parents and mentors showed very limited positive effects for the youth, whereas social class differences did not appear to have any influence.

Conclusions:

In conceptualizing social capital, Gaddis suggests that the amount of time spent in a mentoring relationship and the level of trust placed in the mentor are the most important facets of a relationship to foster when aiming to create social capital.

Although social class differences was not associated with outcomes, Gaddis suggests that it may still be important aspect of social capital that warrants future research as mentors of higher social class may provide information about college or employment to which the youth  may not otherwise have access.

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