New research shows the link between mentoring, racial discrimination and coping efficacy

Notes of Interest: This new study is the first to examine the association between discrimination and coping efficacy and to look at how mentoring is linked to this association. By doing so, this study provides insight into, for example, potentially more effective ways to intervene and increase youth’s coping efficacy.

Reference: Sánchez, B., Mroczkowski, A. L., Liao, L. C., Cooper, A. C., Rivera, C., & DuBois, D. L. (2017). Mentoring as a mediator or moderator of the association between racial discrimination and coping efficacy in urban, low-income Latina/o youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 59, 15-24. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12114

Summarized by Renée Klein Schaarsberg

 

Summary (reprinted from the abstract):

The aim of this study was to examine the associations among mentoring relationship quality (i.e., relational and instrumental quality), racial discrimination and coping efficacy with racial discrimination. Three social support models were tested, including the stress buffering, support mobilization, and support deterioration models.

Participants were 257 urban, low-income Latina/o high school students, who completed surveys in both 9th and 10th grades. While controlling for gender and coping efficacy with discrimination in 9th grade, results supported the social support deterioration model. Specifically, there was a significant indirect effect of racial discrimination in 9th grade on coping efficacy in 10th grade through instrumental mentoring quality.

As racial discrimination increased, mentoring quality decreased and then coping efficacy decreased. We also found that more racial discrimination in 9th grade was significantly associated with lower coping efficacy in 10th grade, and higher instrumental mentoring quality in 9th grade was significantly associated with higher coping efficacy in 10th grade, while controlling for gender and coping efficacy in 9th grade. Implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.

 

Implications (reprinted from the discussion):

This study provides insight to the mechanisms by which mentoring relationships are associated with Latina/o youth outcomes, namely their coping efficacy with discrimination.

Not surprisingly, reporting more racial discrimination from adults in 9th grade predicted poorer coping efficacy in 10th grade. An interesting observation is that the reports of the frequency of racial discrimination tended to be low, but just small amounts of racial discrimination were nevertheless consequential on Latina/o youth’s coping efficacy. Although researchers have examined the role of racial discrimination in coping strategies among Latina/o adolescents, this is the first study to examine the association between discrimination and coping efficacy. Coping efficacy is important because coping efficacy was found to be significantly correlated with children’s internalizing and externalizing psychological problems and the use of active coping strategies. Thus, interventions that help Latina/o adolescents feel more efficacious in their coping efforts could help them in determining appropriate coping strategies and prevent future psychological problems.

An interesting finding in this study is that higher instrumental mentoring quality in 9th grade, rather than relational quality, was significantly associated with higher coping efficacy with discrimination in 10th grade. Instrumental quality assesses the growth aspect of the mentoring relationships, such as the mentor(s) helping the youth solve problems and learning from the mentor(s). Drawing on self-efficacy theory regarding social modeling, it is possible that participants observed their mentors effectively cope with racial discrimination and that mentors discussed their coping strategies with mentees, which influenced Latina/o adolescents’ beliefs in their own coping abilities. In contrast, relational quality assesses closeness, warmth and satisfaction in the mentoring relationship. The mentoring literature points to the importance of the relational aspects of mentoring quality, but the current study findings suggest that having close and  warm relationships is not sufficient for youth to feel like they are coping effectively with racial discrimination. It seems that when mentors are actively engaged in helping youth solve problems that adolescents feel more efficacious in their coping efforts.

The study provides insight to how mentoring is related to youth outcomes in the context of racial discrimination, and our findings have implications for interventions. Interventions should focus on providing youth with the necessary supports to help them cope effectively with racial discrimination, and interventions may also need to support the mentors in their lives in order to prevent the support deterioration model from taking place. Youth and their informal mentors can be taught various coping strategies to effectively deal with racial discrimination, so that mentors can better cope with discrimination themselves, serve as positive models for their mentees and teach youth how to do so effectively. Given the detrimental effects of racial discrimination on youth’s developmental outcomes, determining ways to lessen the negative role of this environmental stressor is essential.

To access the original research, click here.

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