A field at a crossroad: how the bilateral framework can push the field forward

Cavell, T. A., Spencer, R., & McQuillin, S. D. (2021). Back to the Future: Mentoring as Means and End in Promoting Child Mental Health. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 0(0), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2021.1875327

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • The mentoring field has reached a turning point where researchers and practitioners have to decide whether or not to continue utilizing traditional mentoring methods.
  • This paper endorses the bilateral framework, arguing that it will help push the mentoring field forward. 
    • The bilateral framework encourages researchers and practitioners to acknowledge the means and the end of mentoring. 
    • Highlights the importance of being more explicit and intentional about the types of mentoring programs are offering.
  • It’s vital for mentoring programs to broaden and diversify.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Youth mentoring is a potentially powerful tool for prevention and intervention, but it has garnered little attention from clinical child and adolescent psychologists. For decades, the practice of youth mentoring has out-paced its underlying science, and meta-analytic studies consistently reveal modest outcomes. The field is now at an important crossroads: Continue to endorse traditional, widely used models of mentoring or shift to alternative models that are more in line with the tenets of prevention science. Presented here is a bilateral framework to guide the science and practice of mentoring going forward. Our premise is that mentoring relationships can serve as both means to a targeted end and as a valued end unto itself. We present a functional typology of current mentoring programs (supportive, problem-focused, & transitional) and call for greater specification of both the process and expected outcomes of mentoring. Finally, we argue that efforts to leverage mentoring relationships in service of youth development and the promotion of child and adolescent mental health will likely require disrupting the science, practice, and policy that surrounds youth mentoring.

Implications (Reprinted from the Conclusion)

The field of youth mentoring sits apart from most of what is studied and practiced by clinical child and adolescent psychologists. But areas of overlap offer intriguing opportunities for both practitioners and scholars. In this paper, we called attention to persistently modest outcomes from studies of youth mentoring and offered a bilateral framework as a path forward. This framework calls for researchers and practitioners to consider both the means and ends of mentoring, and it makes explicit potential differences in types and goals of mentoring. In so doing, we return to the roots of mentoring, centering the connection with prosocial adults in young people’s lives, but this time with a call for researchers to take these relationships seriously and invest in understanding what makes them work and how programs can effectively promote and sustain them. We also recognize that mentoring can take another important form, embedded within larger contexts and utilized in more circumscribed ways that are intentionally focused on the promotion of more specified and near-term outcomes. In both cases, if mentoring is to become a viable strategy for promoting youth development and addressing mental health needs of children and adolescents, significant disruption in the current science, practice, and policy surrounding mentoring is required.

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