Exploring protective factors among Homeless youth: The role of natural mentors

Michelle T. Dang, Katherine J. Conger, Joshua Breslau, Elizabeth Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study explored the presence and characteristics of natural mentors among 197 homeless youth and the association between natural mentoring relationships and youth functioning. Few studies have explored protective factors in the lives of homeless youth and how these may buffer against poor health outcomes. Relationships with natural mentors have been shown to have protective effects on adolescent functioning among the general adolescent population, and, thus, warrant further investigation with homeless youth. Results from this study revealed that 73.6% of homeless youth have natural mentoring relationships, split between kin and non-kin relationships. Having a natural mentor was associated with higher satisfaction with social support and fewer risky sexual behaviors. Findings suggest that natural mentors may play a protective role in the lives of homeless youth and should be considered an important source of social support that may enhance youth resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1121-1138
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Homeless youth
  • Natural mentor
  • Non-parental adult
  • Protective factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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