Canterbury youth mentoring researcher wins national award

02 November 2021

A University of Canterbury researcher has received a prestigious fellowship to study the relationships between young people and their adult mentors.

  • Dr Hilary Dutton

    Dr Hilary Dutton has been awarded a two-year Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for her research into youth-adult helping relationships.

Dr Hilary Dutton (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is one of five early-career researchers from across Aotearoa New Zealand to receive a two-year Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Her research topic is ‘Youth experiences of self-disclosure in youth-adult helping relationships’.

Dr Dutton, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Canterbury, says young people need at least one caring adult in their life to support their resilience and wellbeing.

This principle is the basis of many community services such as youth work, mentoring and tuakana-teina (older sibling-younger sibling) programmes where adults are paired with young people to help them.

However, she says many youth-adult helping relationships end prematurely and can even have a negative impact on the young people they aim to support.

The Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Scholarship will allow her to find out more about why these relationships end and explore rangatahi (youth) experiences of self-disclosure in their relationship with a helping adult.

She believes self-disclosure, when someone shares personal information with another person to build trust and closeness, is an important element in relationship development (whakawhanaungatanga).

“By prioritising the voices of rangatahi, this research is unique in its potential to significantly advance current understandings of these types of relationships,” she says.

“Using activity-based interviewing techniques, rangatahi will share their experiences of self-disclosure in their helping relationship, the impact it had on them, and what adults can do to support self-disclosure.”

She hopes her research will contribute to more effective youth-adult helping relationships and maximise the positive influence caring adults can have on youth wellbeing.

“I would like my work to help inform training initiatives for youth practitioners from a young person’s perspective to further develop adult interpersonal skills and improve their relationships with rangatahi.”

The Royal Society Te Apārangi today announced the winners of five 2021 Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships and one Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship.

The aim of the funding is to build capability in research, science and technology, including social sciences and the humanities.

Funding comes from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with additional support for the Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship from the Cambridge Commonwealth, and European and International Trust.

For further information please contact:

UC Communications team, media@canterbury.ac.nz, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168