Natural Mentoring and LGBTQ Youth: A Systematic Review

Kay L. Burningham, Lindsey M. Weiler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


LGBTQ youth have a greater likelihood of lacking accepting, supportive, and affirming adult relationships that will help them transition successfully into adulthood. Natural mentoring relationships have been shown to be a corrective attachment experience and to mitigate negative health outcomes among at-risk youth. The purpose of this systematic review is to critically examine studies regarding natural mentoring relationships among LGBTQ youth to understand their potential as a prevention and intervention strategy. Through a PRISMA-guided search of five databases, eight eligible peer-reviewed studies were found. The studies were published between 2009 and 2018, cross-sectional, and were of quantitative (n = 4), qualitative (n = 3), and multiple-method (n = 1) design. Qualitative analyses highlighted their characteristics and functions, and the processes by which natural mentoring relationships are formed. Quantitative analyses assessed the effects of natural mentoring relationships on a variety of outcomes (e.g., substance use, suicidality, educational attainment) and the likelihood of having a natural mentoring relationship according to demographics such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. Overall, analyses revealed that natural mentoring relationships significantly buffered risk and increased the likelihood that LGBTQ youth graduated high school and attended college, particularly if the natural mentoring relationship was emotionally close and with a nonparental family member. Recommendations for future research are provided, which include a stronger integration of developmental and critical theories, a focus on assessing natural mentoring relationships among a variety of LGBTQ youth populations (e.g., sexual minority females of color and transgender youth), and the examination of these relationships over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-407
Number of pages17
JournalAdolescent Research Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thank you to Steven Harris and Tabitha Grier-Reed for their feedback and input on earlier drafts of this review.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG part of Springer Nature.


  • LGBTQ youth
  • Mentor
  • Review
  • Youth mentoring


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