Findings highlight importance of quality mentor-mentee relationships

Larose, S., Chaloux, N., Monaghan, D., & Tarabulsy, G. M. (2010). Working Alliance as a Moderator of the Impact of Mentoring Relationships Among Academically At‐Risk Students. Journal of Applied Social Psychology40 (10), 2656-2686.


In this study, Simon Larose and his colleagues explored the role of the working alliance in mentoring relationships—predicting that more positive working alliances between mentees and mentors would be associated with improved academic adjustment and achievement. Working alliance is a technical term for the quality of the relationship  Researchers have found that (1) a friendly, respectful bond; (2) agreement on goals; and (3) agreement on tasks designed to achieve these goals can lead to strong alliances.


High-risk students at a Canadian public college were randomly assigned to either an educational program with a mentoring component or a no-treatment control group. The program consisted of a community volunteering component, as well as bi-weekly individual mentoring.


Students and mentors who had strong agreement on goals and felt that there was positive bonding were more likely than other mentored students and non-mentored students to improve in:

  • participation in class
  • disposition to seek help from teachers
  • school persistence.

Conclusion and Implications

Developing a strong working alliance in a mentoring relationship is critically important for effective mentoring. Mentored students with a strong working alliance benefitted more from mentoring than other mentored students and the control group.
The authors suggested that agreement on goals is especially important because it establishes trust, mentees’ sense of ownership in the process, and their feelings of efficacy when mutual, reasonable goals are reached. This may give mentees a sense of ownership in the mentoring process.

summarized by UMass Boston clinical psychology student Max Wu.