Can mentorship duration predict youth well-being? A new study has answers!

Damm, A. P., von Essen, E., Jensen, A. J., Kerrn-Jespersen, F., & van Mastrigt, S. (2022). Duration of mentoring relationship predicts child well-being: Evidence from a Danish community-based mentoring program. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(5).

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Evidence indicates that long-lasting mentoring relationships correlate with perceived program support and relationship quality.
  • Given that most research on youth mentoring programs takes place in America, not much is known about the subject in other countries and regions of the world.
  • This study assesses how community-based youth mentorship length affects parental perception of youth well-being.
  • There was no evidence that having a mentor for at least one year improved academic competencies and externalizing behavior among youth.
  • However, results also showed that youth in longer-lasting mentorships had higher individual resilience, better athletic & social competencies, and experienced less internalizing issues.
    • There were no notable differences in well-being between youths who either were in mentorships for less than a year or were on the waitlist.
  • Stable relationships that have lasted at least a year are essential to promote these targeted effects.
  • Researchers and policy-makers need to figure out how we can improve adult familial support in some households.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

While a substantial body of literature suggests that lasting community mentoring relationships can have a range of positive effects on youths, little is known about these effects in the Nordic welfare context, where community mentees may have lower risk profiles compared to many previous samples. This study explores how the duration (length) of child mentoring relationships predicts parental perceptions of child well-being among 197 children served by Denmark’s most extensive community-based youth mentoring program. We find that children who have had a mentor for at least one year are perceived to have significantly higher well-being. In contrast, we find no significant differences in well-being between children who had mentors for less than one year and children on a waiting list. Previous research, conducted in primarily North American contexts, finds that longer mentoring relationships substantially improve school behavior and reduce risk taking. Our results add to the literature by indicating that a minimum mentoring relationship duration of one year appears to be similarly important in promoting well-being for youths involved in community-based mentoring programs in a Nordic welfare context.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The results of our regression analysis are in line with previous literature on community-based youth mentoring programs in the North American context, e.g., [10,12,13,15], and support our first hypothesis that longer lasting friendships are beneficial to child well-being. We contribute to making the understanding of youth mentoring more diverse by presenting results from the Nordic welfare state context. Here, where the local governments are obliged to offer social interventions targeting children of higher risk, the children in the Danish community-based youth mentoring program CAF had higher difficulty scores than similarly-aged peers in the full population, but similar social strengths scores as measured by SDQ. We interpret this as evidence that the children in the CAF program tend to exclude those in the highest risk group. Among these lower risk children, we find significantly higher well-being among those who have had their mentor for at least one year compared to those on the waiting list.

More specifically, our results show improvements in the child’s internalizing problems, social and athletic competencies, and individual resilience/robustness. In addition, we find that the impact of an adult friend on well-being only appears after one year of adult friendship (comparing with children on the waiting list). By contrast, we find no evidence that an adult-friendship of at least one year improves children’s externalizing behavior or scholastic competencies.

To access this article, click here.