Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Family Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Nathan D. Wood


Mentoring relationships have long been identified as a valuable means for supporting identity development in young adults and assisting these individuals in navigating life transitions. The guidance and stability afforded by mentoring relationships can be particularly beneficial to individuals undergoing transitions in their personal or professional lives, or both, and are thus well-suited to play a meaningful role in the lives of emerging adults. Emerging adults are also in a unique developmental stage in which they experience increased freedom and opportunity for exploration away from parents and guardians. While this freedom often results in increased risky behavior, it also allows for exploration and evaluation of moral systems and religious beliefs- a process that is at times accomplished alongside a mentor. However, existing mentoring research is largely directed towards three types of mentoring relationships (adolescent, academic, and vocational) and the spiritual mentoring of emerging adults is infrequently addressed. It is even more rare to find research on the influence of spiritual mentors and the ways mentors may be impacted by spiritual mentoring.

Guided by the broader mentoring literature and Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, the current quantitative study aims to better understand spiritual mentoring relationships and their reciprocal influence on mentors and mentees through the actor-partner interdependence model. The study was conducted using data gleaned from 189 spiritual mentoring pairs. Respondents were obtained through convenience and snowball sampling methods that consistent of contacting colleges, campus organizations, and college ministries across the country that help facilitate spiritual mentoring relationships.

Overall, numerous factors from both mentee and mentors’ perspectives that were associated with higher levels of mentee relationship quality, instrumental support, psychosocial support, and mentor relationship quality are detailed. Additionally, a preliminary investigation of the impact of mentee perceptions of psychosocial support, instrumental support, and mentor and mentee relationship quality on mentor and mentee outcomes revealed potential improvements in spirituality, intrinsic religiosity, religious commitment, spiritual modeling self-efficacy, and forms of well-being.

Consistencies with, and deviations from, findings in the larger mentoring literature are discussed and examined in light of the distinctiveness of spiritual mentoring relationships.

This study serves as an initial and unique investigation into the dyadic nature of spiritual mentoring relationships and highlights numerous factors that may enhance relationship quality, instrumental support, and psychosocial support. Although much of the mentoring literature emphasizes mentee perspectives and outcomes, this study corroborates existing evidence that both mentees and mentors stand to benefit in meaningful ways from engaging in spiritual mentoring relationships. The necessity of considering both mentee and mentor perspectives is also underscored by the numerous partner effects uncovered in the current work, and the reciprocal dynamics likely underlying the relationships that were explored. Theoretically relevant, but less-studied factors like mentee and mentor perceptions of the other’s motivation and credibility-enhancing displays were demonstrated to be important considerations in spiritual mentoring relationship research. Additional implications of these findings include improved insight for spiritual mentees and mentors, preliminary evidence of the impact of spiritual mentoring relationships, and potential guidance and direction for facilitators of spiritual mentoring relationships.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the Alice P. Killpatrick Fellowship from the University of Kentucky Department of Family Sciences in 2020.