Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Lois E. Layne (Director), Dr. John O'Connor, Dr. Retta E. Poe

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Graduate school socialization and mentoring are based on adult development theory as articulated by Jung, Erickson, and Levinson. As adults mature, they go through several stages of detaching from family and learning how to live in the world. During this period (which encompasses undergraduate and graduate education), special relationships are often formed to help ease the transition to adulthood by providing advice and mentoring.

A mentor is a person who helps guide another person into a profession and contributes to his or her professional development. The mentor may serve as a professional role model and teacher, providing encouragement, direction, information, and friendship. Levinson’s work in particular revealed mentoring to be an important part of adult development. However, a review of the literature revealed a lack of research on the characteristics and consequences of mentor relationships and on male-female differences in mentor relationships

A written multiple choice survey was administered to 28 male and 28 female doctoral level faculty members at Western Kentucky University. The results were examined to learn whether subjects had been mentored in graduate school, and whether they had same-gender or cross-gender relationships. The study assessed the characteristics and functions of mentoring relationships, and sought to determine whether graduate school mentoring was associated with differences in productivity, professional satisfaction, and whether they had become mentors themselves.

A stratified sample was used to match subjects by academic college, year degree was received (within five years), age (within 10 years), and, where possible, academic department and type of degree. The results were analyzed using the Chi-Square test for significance.

It was found that 78.6% of the men and 75.0% of the women had mentors, but women were significantly more likely than men to have had cross-gender relationships. The presence or absence of mentoring was not significantly related to either productivity or professional satisfaction. Although the difference was not significant, faculty members who had been mentored were more likely to become mentors themselves.

The findings from the present study were compared to the findings of previous research, and suggestions for future research were discussed, including the need for similar research with a larger sample that includes a wide variety of professional and non-professional occupations. A longitudinal study which follows the professional development of students who have been questioned about their mentor relationships was also suggested as a means toward a better understanding of the possible contribution of mentor relationships to a person’s professional development.


Psychology | Social Psychology