, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 293-306

An Exploratory Study of Youth Mentoring in an Urban Context: Adolescents' Perceptions of Relationship Styles

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Abstract

The goal of this study was to empirically distinguish a range of mentor relationships and to evaluate their differential influence on adolescent outcomes. The study makes use of data that were collected as part of a national evaluation of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. The evaluation included 1138 youth, ranging in age from 10 through 16 (M=12.25), who were assigned randomly to either a mentoring relationship or a control group and followed for 18 months. A series of analyses, based on the matched youth's accounts of the relationships, suggested 4 distinct types of relationships (i.e., moderate, unconditionally supportive, active, and low-key). The 4 groups tended to distinguish themselves from one another on the basis of perceived support, structure, and activity. Relative to the controls, youth who characterized their mentor relationships as providing moderate levels of both activity and structure and conditional support derived the largest number of benefits from the relationships. These included improvements in social, psychological, and academic outcomes. Implications of the findings for research and intervention are discussed.