The Effects of Youth Mentoring Programs: A Meta-analysis of Outcome Studies

Abstract

Mentoring programs, which pair youth with caring, non-parental adults with the goal of promoting positive youth development, are an increasingly popular strategy for early intervention with at-risk youth. However, important questions remain about the extent to which these interventions improve youth outcomes. The present study involved a comprehensive meta-analysis of all outcome studies of intergenerational, one-on-one youth mentoring programs written in the English language between 1975 and 2017, using rigorous inclusion criteria designed to align with developmental theories of youth mentoring. Analysis of 70 mentoring outcome studies, with a sample size of 25,286 youth (average age of 12 years old), yielded a statistically significant effect of mentoring programs across all youth outcomes. The observed effect size fell within the medium/moderate range according to empirical guidelines derived from universal prevention programs for youth, and was consistent with past meta-analyses of youth mentoring. Moderation analyses indicated that programs serving a larger proportion of male youth, deploying a greater percentage of male mentors or mentors with a helping profession background, and requiring shorter meetings yielded larger effect sizes, as did evaluations that relied on questionnaires and youth self-report. Taken together, these findings provide some support for the efficacy of mentoring interventions, while also emphasizing the need to remain realistic about the modest impact of these programs as currently implemented, and highlighting opportunities for improving the quality and rigor of mentoring practices.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by funding from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Connected Learning and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.

Authors’ Contributions

E.B.R. led data management and analysis, wrote the first draft of the manuscript, and coordinated draft revisions; J.R. conceptualized and designed the study, oversaw study execution, and contributed to drafts of the manuscript; G.J.J.M.S. and N.C. consulted on study coding and conducted the statistical analyses; J.K. led the development of the outcome coding scheme; S.S. reviewed and contributed to the final draft of the manuscript; and S.B., L.Y.S., S.K., and S.H. conducted literature searches and then identified and coded relevant studies. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth B. Raposa.

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Raposa, E.B., Rhodes, J., Stams, G.J.J.M. et al. The Effects of Youth Mentoring Programs: A Meta-analysis of Outcome Studies. J Youth Adolescence 48, 423–443 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-00982-8

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Keywords

  • Meta-analysis
  • Youth mentoring
  • Relational theory