Present, Protective, and Promotive: Mentors’ Roles in the Lives of Young Adults in Residential Care

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Abstract

Mentoring relationships are considered among the most significant relationships with nonparental figures and a protective factor against a wide range of negative outcomes. This exploratory study explored mentoring relationships in the lives of 140 care leavers, and the way those relationships influenced their life course. Findings showed that most of the mentors were known to the young adults from their former care placement for 3 years and above. Thematic analysis revealed 2 main “types” of mentor: (1) a present, accessible and supportive mentor, who is mainly characterized as a parental figure and a role model, a life coach who is also a confidant; (2) a motivating and catalyzing mentor, who is characterized as promoting adaptive coping with life stressors, and leading the young adults to set and achieve their goals and change their behavioral and mental status for the better. The discussion addresses the contribution of mentoring relationships to the young adults’ resilience in reference to social support and attachment theories. It discusses the importance of promoting a “mentoring policy” within the residential care settings, to enable youth to continue their relationships with their mentors during their challenging transition to emerging adulthood.

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