The Young Women Leaders' Program: Exploring Factors and Outcomes Associated with Emerging Adult Female Mentors' Experience
Type of Degreethesis
Human Development and Family Studies
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The purpose of this study was to understand young adult female mentors’ experiences in a mentoring program that pairs undergraduates with at-risk female junior high school students. There is extremely limited research addressing the experiences and outcomes for mentors; the vast majority of research focuses on mentoring programs’ effects on the mentees. We expected that the mentors involved also experienced change because of the interactional nature of close relationships. Most young adult research focuses on parent-child, peer, or romantic relationships. Very few studies have focused on other significant relationships, such as mentoring relationships, that may also impact young adults’ development. We use an a priori blended theoretical framework that included aspects of feminist theory, symbolic interactionism, and the calamity theory of growth and incorporated a grounded theory and phenomenological design for theory development and refinement. Qualitative interviews were conducted at two timepoints in the year-long program. Prompt questions focused on perceived outcomes and the factors and processes that may have led to these reported outcomes. Transcription and thematic coding techniques were utilized. Themes uncovered in the present study range from personal to practical, and relationship focused to individual focused. The wide range of positive outcomes is encouraging, but there were negative experiences, including challenges and negative feelings, reported by the participating mentors. Novel findings include the documentation of several additional outcomes for mentors not previously reported: understanding of self-disclosure techniques, persistence and perseverance in relationships, emotional regulation skills, teamwork, and the application of knowledge gained in class to real life experiences. A significant contribution of this study is the focus on challenges reported by the mentors. These included programmatic issues, relational challenges and individual challenges. Negative feelings associated with their mentoring relationship were also documented. These negative feelings include feeling worried about their mentees and their relationships, and frustration and discontent associated with challenges. Importantly, however, results from this study suggest an indirect relationship between participation and outcomes. While opportunities to practice skills influence the development of personal and practical outcomes focused on the individual, and relationships, the relationship between challenges and outcomes involve intervening factors, such as support from others (e.g., mentees, mentors, graduate facilitators, and faculty advisors), altered expectations, relationship quality, time invested, and differences within the mentor-mentee pair. These factors are better predictors of the outcomes experienced by the mentors than the challenges faced. This study provides an organization of existing research on mentor experiences and utilizes the details of the mentor experiences uncovered here to formulate an initial conceptual model for the study of and work with young adult female mentors. Theory is informed as these women’s experiences were more deeply explored. Results inform both the mentoring and young adult research literature as well as mentoring program administrators as they consider the planning for training, and monitoring of the mentors in their programs. This study is important for furthering our understanding of the broader context of influential relationships and experiences for young adult women. More research needs to focus on potential determinants of mentor outcomes. Once we have a better understanding of potential mentoring experiences through qualitative methods, different quantitative methods can help us target specific trajectories or relationships within a conceptual model.