A systematic review of research on mentoring black male youth

Sánchez, B., Hurd, N., Neblett, E., & Vaclavik, D. (2017). Mentoring for Black Male Youth: A Systematic Review of the Research. Adolescent Research Review. 3. 1-20. 10.1007/s40894-017-0074-z.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Despite the increase in literature that focuses on the probable gains of mentoring interventions, there are still unanswered questions about the efficacy of mentoring for racial minorities, who tend to make up the majority of people in said interventions. 
  • These researchers analyzed:
    • the impact of mentoring male Black youths
    • the variables that moderate the efficacy of mentoring black youth
  • Results indicate that some programs are already aware of the need for culturally sensitive program implementation.
  • The literature review reveals that it’s still unclear as to whether or not having culturally tailored programs are better than regular mentoring programs geared towards diverse youth groups, and that the studies that have been done on this population specifically require increased rigor. 
  • Overall, mentoring appears to have a positive effect for black youth on a range of outcomes.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

A growing body of literature has been dedicated to evaluating the potential benefits of mentoring interventions. Although the majority of youth served by mentoring interventions are youth of color, little is known about the role of mentoring programs in specific cultural populations. The current literature review was conducted to compile all available research evidence about mentoring for Black boys. The aims of the review were to examine (a) the demonstrated effects of mentoring for Black male youth and (b) the factors that condition or influence (moderators) the effectiveness of mentoring for Black male youth. Available research points to a range of potential benefits of mentoring for this population, such as reduced health-risk behavior and improved academic outcomes, social-emotional wellbeing, mental health, interpersonal relationships, and racial identity. The literature revealed potential moderators of mentoring for Black boys related to program and mentor characteristics. This review showed that there are few studies focused specifically on mentoring for Black boys and that there is generally a lack of rigor in many studies of mentoring programs targeting this group. Further, it is unknown whether culturally tailored mentoring programs are more effective than general mentoring programs targeting diverse youth. We call on researchers to conduct investigations of mentoring for this population, to specifically examine the racial, cultural, and contextual factors that influence the effect of mentoring on Black male youth’s outcomes, and to study culturally specific outcomes.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Given the unique set of experiences of Black male youth in our society, many of the formal mentoring programs included in this review were explicit in their efforts to be culturally responsive by considering the needs and strengths of Black boys in the design and implementation of the program. Some of the mentoring interventions were developed with African or African American culture, history and values in mind by including Afrocentric principles and values in curricula (Gordon et al. 2009; Utsey et al. 2003; Washington et al. 2006; Wyatt 2009). Further, some researchers intentionally utilized a group mentoring model, rather than one-on-one, because researchers argue that it may be more culturally congruent with African American culture (Utsey et al. 2003). In support of this idea, research suggests that group mentoring promotes brotherhood, belonging, and closer mentoring relationships among boys of color (Jackson et al. 2014; Sánchez et al. 2016). However, it is unknown whether including these culturally specific modifications to mentoring programs makes mentoring more effective for Black boys compared to mentoring programs that do not make these adaptations. 

Another way in which researchers considered the role of racial and cultural processes in mentoring relationships was by examining the role of culturally specific risk factors as well as adaptive coping processes, as suggested by Phenom- enological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (Spencer 1995). For instance, Cooper et al. (2013) found that the presence of natural mentoring relationships buffered the negative effects of experiences of racial discrimination on school suspensions and school engagement. An important adaptive coping process for youth of color is racial and ethnic identity (Neblett et al. 2012), and two mentoring studies found support for the positive role of mentoring in Black boys’ racial identity (Gordon et al. 2009; Hurd et al. 2012). Hurd et al. (2012) further found that the presence of a natural mentor indirectly predicted educational attainment via racial pride and the belief that school was important for future success. 


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