One adult who is crazy about you: Can natural mentoring relationships increase assets among young adults with and without foster care experience?

During emerging adulthood, most youth receive family support to help them weather the difficulties associated with transitioning to independence. When foster youth emancipate, they confront the challenges associated with emerging adulthood, and are at risk of having to transition without family support. Many are in danger of failing to meet minimal levels of self-sufficiency. A caring adult who offers social support is normative for adolescent development and protective for youth across many risk conditions. Natural mentoring can cultivate such relationships. This study examines the association between natural mentor relationship characteristics, and material hardship and asset-related outcomes during the emerging adulthood period in both a normative sample of young adults and young adults identified as former foster youth. This study also considers the potential mediating effect of future expectations. Data from Wave 3 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health that pertain to 15,197 respondents are used. Path models with categorical dependent variables were estimated using a maximum likelihood method with standard errors that are robust to non-normality and non-independence of observations. “Like a parent”, “role model”, and “guidance/advice” were significantly associated with assets among both groups. This study contributes to the growing body of literature on natural mentoring and former foster youth, and highlights the value of increasing our understanding of natural mentor roles for intervention development. The focus on asset-related outcomes is a novel approach to investigate the benefits of natural mentoring to the healthy development of youth. This paper is the first to consider the association between natural mentoring and asset building among both former and nonformer foster youth.

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