Prevention Science

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 646–657 | Cite as

The Role of Program-Supported Mentoring Relationships in Promoting Youth Mental Health, Behavioral and Developmental Outcomes

  • David J. DeWitEmail author
  • David DuBois
  • Gizem Erdem
  • Simon Larose
  • Ellen L. Lipman


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.


Emotional problems Behavioral problems Developmental outcomes Youth mentoring programs 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


Funding for this research was provided by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP 81115 and MOP 130435). The authors are grateful for the kind support of BBBS of Canada and the participating agencies.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All study procedures were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the CAMH Research Ethics Board and the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual study participants.

Supplementary material

11121_2016_663_MOESM1_ESM.docx (110 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 110 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. DeWit
    • 1
    Email author
  • David DuBois
    • 2
  • Gizem Erdem
    • 3
  • Simon Larose
    • 4
  • Ellen L. Lipman
    • 5
  1. 1.Social and Epidemiological Research DepartmentCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthLondonCanada
  2. 2.University of IllinoisChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Koc University IstanbulIstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Laval UniversityQuebec CityCanada
  5. 5.McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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