Mentoring programs are a great way to lend support to youths who need it, but the question of their effectiveness over time still remains.

Through a study involving 70 existing evaluations of mentoring programs, co-author David DuBois found that while mentoring does seem to help improve youths’ test scores, there’s little support to back up whether mentoring helps other policy-relevant outcomes, such as overall educational attainment, juvenile offending, substance use or obesity prevention.

Furthermore, the study found that “mentoring programs appear to be most effective for youth who have some pre-existing difficulties or who are exposed to heightened levels of environmental risk, but most programs probably can’t handle the demands of youth with really serious difficulties.”

The study found that mentor-mentee pair is most effective when the two are partnered up according to their interests. This helps to produce greater benefits for kids, as this kind of matching helps kids and mentors connect on a common level and find activities that they both enjoy doing. The research also found that mentored youth benefit more when mentor programs help mentors to provide useful guidance and act as an advocate on their mentees’ behalf.

But issues arise, DuBois said, when the mentor is simply seen by the mentee as “one more adult telling them what to do” and when mentors end up “crossing boundaries and become over-involved in a youth’s life,” causing the mentoring to become ineffective.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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