Determinants of Motivation for Mentoring Among Adults Volunteering to Mentor Youth


  • Miriam Miranda-Díaz Portland State University
  • Hyuny Clark-Shim Portland State University
  • Thomas E. Keller Portland State University
  • Renée Spencer Boston University



youth mentoring, ethnocultural empathy, volunteer motivation


Most youth mentoring programs rely on volunteers to serve as mentors to youth. This study investigates factors associated with motivations for volunteering in this capacity, specifically altruistic and self-oriented reasons for becoming a mentor. Because adults who volunteer as mentors and youth mentees typically come from different socio-cultural backgrounds, the study examines demographic characteristics associated with these different motivations. In addition, the study addresses the empathy-altruism hypothesis suggesting that individuals with higher levels of empathy exhibit greater altruistic tendencies. For this analysis, the focus is on ethnocultural empathy and its association with volunteer motivations. The sample consisted of 1,000 volunteers who applied to mentor in 4 agencies affiliated with a national mentoring organization. The results indicated that mentors reporting higher levels of ethnocultural empathy were more likely to endorse altruistic motivations for volunteering. Younger volunteers, female volunteers, and volunteers of color reported higher levels of self-oriented motivations for volunteering. Female mentors, in general, reported higher levels of altruistic motivations for volunteering. Altruism and empathy, particularly the ability to connect with youth across cultural differences, are considered important mentor attributes conducive to healthy mentoring relationships. The implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.


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