Individual Differences in Preferences for Matched-Ethnic Mentors Among High-Achieving Ethnically Diverse Adolescents in STEM


  • This research was supported by Grant Number R01GM071935 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, or the National Science Foundation. Portions of this research were presented at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Research on Child Development, Denver, CO. Thanks to Steve Bearman for assistance with survey design, Margarita Azmitia for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, and UC Santa Cruz COSMOS students, staff, and instructors for their participation.

concerning this article should be addressed to Moin Syed, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 E. River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Electronic mail may be sent to


This short-term longitudinal study examined (a) adolescents’ contact with mentors who share their background in relation to the importance they place on having such mentors, and (b) the associations of these perceptions with self-efficacy, identity, and commitment to a science career. Participants were 265 ethnically diverse adolescents (M age = 15.82) attending a 4-week science education program. Cluster analyses indicated that at Time 1, underrepresented ethnic minorities were more often in the cluster defined by feelings of importance of having a matched-background mentor but not having much contact. Perceptions of contact increased over time for these students and were associated with increased feelings of identity as a science student. The results suggest the need for attending to individual differences in students’ preferences for matched-background mentors.