Overview for Emerging Adult Mentoring and Career Outcomes

Having a mentor, whether a formally assigned mentor or an informal mentoring relationship, has a diverse array of positive effects on youth and adolescents. Previous studies have indicated that being able to identify at least one mentor predicts improved psychological and educational outcomes for youth, including higher self-efficacy, high school completion and resiliency. Much of the current research on mentoring has focused on younger children and adolescents. However, emerging adults might also benefit from mentors, particularly when trying to navigate issues of identity and career goals.

My honors thesis will examine how naturally-occurring mentoring relationships during adolescence and young adulthood influence young adults’ vocational outcomes (i.e., types and quality of jobs, career attitudes, and job satisfaction) during and after college. In addition, I will examine whether one’s perceptions around adult identity mediate the effects of mentoring on vocational outcomes. Lastly, I will test whether young adult gender moderates these relationships. To examine these questions, I will use the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health: Harris, 2009), a longitudinal study with data collected across four waves. For the purpose of this study, my research will focus primarily on the third and fourth waves. Wave three assessed adolescents when they were 18-26 years old, and wave IV followed up with the same participants at ages 24-32. Analyses will use data from in-school questionnaires and in-home interviews that assessed presence and quality of relationship with a mentor, career outcomes, and perceptions of emerging adulthood.


Thank you so much to everyone who has made this Honors Fellowship happen!


  1. Hi Mary!

    Knowing the role of mentors in my own career choices, I think it’s truly interesting that you have taken on this research. I’ve followed your work over the course of the summer, and I have one question, in particular, you defined natural occurring mentoring relationship as an unrelated (non family member) adult who has an ongoing and positive impact on the life of a protege” but this definition does not explain whether these relationships are sought after (i.e: reaching out to someone) versus finding someone with common interest and becoming a mentor out of a genuine relationship. Now that you’ve conducted a huge chunk of your relationship, I’m interested to see how you defined mentor!

  2. Mary Grutta says:

    For the purposes of my research, I have defined a naturally occurring mentoring relationship as an “unrelated (non family member) adult who has an ongoing and positive impact on the life of a protege” (Miranda-Chan, et. al., 2015). This type of relationship differs from a formal mentor or an adult who volunteer in organized mentoring programs like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Generally there are two types of mentoring relationships, informal or natural and formal mentors. For my thesis, I will be focusing on the informal or natural mentors. Defining ‘mentor’ is a big part of my project so I will have to answer that question at a later date. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health used about 15,000 participants but I will only be looking at a portion of those who responded that they had been influenced by a mentor.

  3. This seems so interesting! I’ll admit, I have not thought too much about the role of mentors in my own career choices, but considering it now, a few influential people played a huge role in my decision for what I want to do. I was wondering how you defined a ‘naturally occurring mentoring relationship?’ Are there different types of mentoring relationships, and if so are you focusing on this specific one? In general, how do you define a ‘mentor?’ My other question involves the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. First, it’s so great you have that resource. How many adolescents participated in it? Good luck with this project, I look forward to learning more about it!