Natural mentoring, also referred to as informal mentoring, includes mentoring relationships that occur more naturally, rather than through a formal program or organization. For years, Dr. Jean Rhodes and her colleagues have argued that community-based programs, school and after-school programs, the juvenile justice system, camps, second chance programs, etc represent fertile, but often missed, opportunities for the formation of strong intergenerational ties. To this end, we have been involved in several efforts to improve youth’s capacity to recruit mentors (youth-initiated mentoring programs), to understand and strengthen adults’ capacity to build strong intergenerational relationships across various contexts and to help first-generation students and others develop more robust social networks. Dr. Rhodes is a member of the MacArthur Foundation Network on Connected Learning where she and her students have furthered this line of inquiry.

Related Publications

Rhodes, J. E., Lowe, S., R., Schwartz, S. E., & Jasman, M. (2023). Mentoring relationships. In Reference Collection in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology.

Adar Ben-Eliyahu, Laura A. Yoviene Sykes & Jean E. Rhodes (2021). Someone who ‘gets’ me: adolescents’ perceptions of positive regard from natural mentors. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 29(3), 305-327, DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2021.1927438. [PDF]

Raposa, E. B., Hagler, M., Liu, D. & Rhodes J. E. (2021). Predictors of close faculty−student relationships and mentorship in higher education: findings from the Gallup−Purdue Index. Annals of the New York Academy of Science. [PDF]

Weber, E., Hagler M., Schwartz, S., Paras, M. & Rhodes (2021). Natural mentoring relationships among survivors of caregiver childhood abuse: Findings from the Add Health Study. Annals of the New York Academy of Science. [PDF]

Van Dam, L., Blom, D., Esma, K., Assink, M., Stams, G-J., Schwartz, S., & Rhodes, J. (2020). Youth initiated mentoring: A meta-analytic study of a hybrid approach to youth mentoring. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Hagler, M. & Rhodes, J. (2018). The long-term impact of natural mentoring relationships: A counterfactual analysis. American Journal of Community Psychology, 62, 175–188. [PDF]

Rubin, R. O., Hagler, M., Burton, S. A., & Rhodes, J. (2018). Striking a balance: An exploration of staff-camper relationship formation. Journal of Youth Development, 13, 44-61. [PDF]

Van Dam, L., Smit, D., Wildschut, B., Branje, S. J. T., Rhodes, J. E., Assink, M., & Stams, G.J.J. M. (2018). Does natural mentoring matter? A multilevel meta‐analysis on the association between natural mentoring and youth outcomes. American Journal of Community Psychology. [PDF]

Spencer, R., Gowdy, G., Drew, A. L. Rhodes, J. E., (2018). “Who knows me the best and can encourage me the most?”: Matching and early relationship development in youth-initiated mentoring relationships with system-involved youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 1-20. [PDF]

Schwartz, S. E. O., Kanchewa, S. S., Rhodes, J. E., Cutler, E. & Cunningham, J. L. (2016). "I didn’t know you could just ask:" Empowering underrepresented college-bound students to recruit academic and career mentors. Children and Youth Services Review, 64, 51-19. [PDF]

Spencer, R., Schwartz, S. O., & Rhodes, J. E. (2016). Somebody who was on my side: A qualitative examination of youth initiated mentoring. Youth & Society, 48, 402-424. [PDF]

Spencer, R. & Rhodes, J. E. (2014). Growth promoting relationships with children and adolescents. New Directions for Youth Development, 2014(144), 59-72. DOI: 10.1002/yd.20113[PDF]

Schwartz, S. E. O., Rhodes, J. E., Liang, B., Sánchez, B., Spencer, R., Kremer, S., & Kanchewa, S. (2014). Mentoring in the digital age: Social media use in adult-youth relationships. Children and Youth Services Review, 47(3), 205-213.[ PDF ]

Ben-Eliyahu, A., Rhodes, J. E., & Scales, P. (2014). The interest-driven pursuits of 15-year-olds: “Sparks” and their association with caring relationships and developmental outcomes. Applied Developmental Science, 18(2), 76-89.[PDF]

Schwartz, S. E. O., Chan, C. S., Rhodes, J., & Scales, P. C. (2013). Community developmental assets and positive youth development: The role of natural mentors. Research in Human Development. 10(2), 141-162.[PDF]

Millenky, M., Schwartz, S. O., & Rhodes (2013). Supporting the transition to adulthood among high school dropouts: An impact study of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program. Prevention Science. [PDF]

Grossman, J. B., Chan, C. S., Schwartz, S. E. O., & Rhodes, J. E. (2012). The test of time in school-based mentoring: The role of relationship duration and re-matching on academic outcomes. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49(1-2), 43-53. [PDF]

Klaw, E. L., Rhodes, J. E., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2003). Natural mentors in the lives of African-American adolescent mothers: Tracking relationships over time. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(3), 223-232. [PDF]

Rhodes, J. E. (1997). “Natural and assigned mentor relationships with at-risk youth: Promising directions for research and intervention.” In E. Mech, J.R. Rycraft, & E. Leonard (Eds.) Preparing youth for adult living. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League.

Rhodes, J. E., Contreras, J. M. & Mangelsdorf, S. C. (1994). Natural mentor relationships among Latina adolescent mothers: Psychological adjustment, moderating processes, and the role of early parental acceptance. American Journal of Community Psychology 22(2), 211-228.

Rhodes, J. E., Ebert, L., & Fischer, K. (1992). Natural mentors: An overlooked resource in the social networks of young, African-American adolescent mothers. American Journal of Community Psychology, 20(4), 445-461. [PDF]