The Role of Program-Supported Mentoring Relationships in Promoting Youth Mental Health, Behavioral and Developmental Outcomes
This study examined the relationship between youth mentoring status and behavioral, developmental, and emotional outcomes for 859 youths aged 6–17 participating in a national survey of Big Brothers Big Sisters community mentoring relationships (MRs). Youth self-reported behaviors and mental health occurred at the baseline assessment (before being paired to a mentor) and at 18 months follow-up. Youth mentoring status was categorized as follows: (1) continuous MR less than 12 months (n = 131); (2) continuous MR 12 or more months (n = 253); (3) dissolved MR less than 12 months (n = 110); (4) dissolved MR 12 or more months (n = 70); 5) MR with a second mentor (re-matched; n = 83); and (6); never mentored (n = 212). Structural equation model results at 18 months revealed that mentored youths, especially those in MR lasting 12 or more months (continuous or dissolved), reported significantly fewer behavioral problems and fewer symptoms of depression and social anxiety than did non-mentored youths. They also reported stronger coping skills and emotional support from parents. Mentored girls and boys in long-term relationships experienced positive outcomes. Re-matched girls displayed better outcomes than did never-mentored girls while there was some evidence of harmful outcomes for re-matched boys. Threats to internal validity are examined including the possibility of pre-existing baseline differences between mentored and non-mentored youths. Implications for mentoring programs are discussed.