Group Mentoring Model Shows “Promise and Potential” – National Mentoring Resource Center Review

nmrc_final_logo_125Group Review Board
Gabriel Kuperminc, Ph.D. (Georgia State University)
National Mentoring Resource Center

This review examines the research evidence for mentoring programs that use a group format, in which one or more mentors is matched with a group of youth for a shared mentoring experience.

This review addresses four topics related to group mentoring for children and adolescents, including (1) its documented effectiveness, (2) the extent to which effectiveness depends on characteristics of mentors, mentees, or program practices, (3) intervening processes likely to link group mentoring to youth outcomes, and (4) the success of efforts to reach and engage targeted youth, achieve high quality implementation, and adopt and sustain programs over time. Overall, evidence is beginning to accumulate that supports at least the short-term effectiveness of formal group mentoring programs. Research is only beginning to address conditional factors, intervening processes, and factors related to implementation. However, there is some preliminary evidence that:

  • Group mentoring programs can produce an array of positive outcomes for youth (behavioral, emotional, academic, etc.) and seem to be effective across a wide range of youth participants (ages, ethnicities, etc.).
  • Additional relational processes, such as group cohesion and belonging and a strong group identity, may also contribute to the outcomes youth experience from group mentoring.
  • ——Group mentoring programs offer a context for activities that develop mentee skills, change mentee attitudes, and offer positive peer interactions; and that these processes may lead to behavioral outcomes for participants.

This review concludes with insights and recommendations for practice based on currently available knowledge.


Group activities are ubiquitous in the lives of children and youth. The basic ingredients for group mentoring can be found in classrooms, community centers, parks—wherever multiple young people join together over a period of time with one or more group leaders (adults or older peers) for educational or recreational purposes. Informal group mentoring has been documented in youth organizations, such as after-school centers.1 However, research has shown that systematic efforts may be needed to encourage mentoring to occur in such settings with greater regularity.2 Thus, formal programs are undertaken to match mentors with groups of youth; such programs are very popular, with estimates that at least 20% of formal youth mentoring occurs in groups.3 This review of group mentoring addresses four questions, as follows:

  1. What are the demonstrated effects of group mentoring on the development of children and adolescents?
  2. To what extent are the benefits of group mentoring likely to depend on characteristics and backgrounds of the youth and/or their mentor(s) or program practices?
  3. What intervening processes are likely to be involved in linking group mentoring to youth outcomes?
  4. How successful have efforts to provide group mentoring to young persons been in terms of reaching and engaging targeted groups of youth, achieving high quality implementation, and in being adopted and maintained by host organizations and settings over time? What factors predict better reach, implementation, and adoption/sustainability?

For purposes of this review, group mentoring refers to a broad array of “natural” or programmatic contexts in which mentoring activity takes place involving one or more mentors and at least two mentees (see What is Mentoring? for definitions of mentoring activity and programs). The activity involved must involve group process (that is, interactions among group members). Group mentoring is thus differentiated from other types of group activities, such as didactic skills training classes that do not incorporate significant opportunities for meaningful, two-way interactions between the mentors and mentees or among the mentees. As noted above, the contexts in which group mentoring can take place include formal programs designed for this purpose (such programs include those in which all mentoring takes place in a group context as well as those that use a “hybrid” approach that combines group mentoring with 1:1 mentoring) and more informally in a variety of settings where youth come together in groups, such as sports teams or after school programs, so long as there is significant consistency in attendance to likely engender a sense of ‘membership’.

A systematic literature search uncovered 42 articles, book chapters, and evaluation reports that examined group mentoring for youth and fell within the scope of this review. Table 1 provides summary information about these programs, including goals, settings in which they are delivered, group composition, formality of group processes, and evaluation design; where available, hyperlinks to program websites are provided. Programs target youth varying in exposure to risk, ethnic/cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and ages (typically middle or high school aged). Programs vary in group size (ranging from as few as 4 youth to more than 20), number of mentors (ranging from 1 to 10), and mentor:mentee ratios (ranging from 1:1 in many hybrid programs to 10:1). The section of the review addressing the effectiveness of group mentoring (Question #1) focused on quantitative studies with designs that allow reasonably strong causal inferences (i.e., randomized or non-randomized comparison groups, multiple pre-test or baseline assessments, or, in the case of informal group mentoring, examination of change in outcomes over time with statistical control for potential confounders—that is, characteristics of youth and their backgrounds that may be correlated with receiving mentoring and also influence outcomes). There were 13 such studies (see Table 2), all of which addressed the effects of formal (program-arranged) group mentoring. Sections addressing Questions #2 (moderators/conditional factors), #3 (mediators/processes), and #4 (reach, implementation, and sustainability) drew from the full array of studies identified through the literature search. Each portion of the review begins with a brief background section. These sections, where relevant, orient the reader to major findings for research in related areas (e.g., group therapy).

  • What are the Demonstrated Effects of Group Mentoring on Youth?
  • What Factors Condition or Influence the Effectiveness of Group Mentoring?
  • What Processes are Important in Linking Group Mentoring to Youth Outcomes?
  • Have Group Mentoring Programs Been Implemented with High Quality and Sustained?

Implications for Practice

(Mike Garringer, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership)
As we can see in this review of the research-based evidence around group mentoring, there is a lot of promise and potential in this model, as well as a number of “unknowns” that future research can help illuminate. These types of programs have shown the ability to produce strong outcomes for participants, but there is inconclusive evidence of exactly how these programs work best and who they serve effectively. So what are practitioners to do with the mixed findings and as-of-now incomplete understanding about group mentoring? Below I discuss some key concepts to keep in mind when designing and delivering group mentoring services.


Learn More:
The full study, “Group Mentoring” is available on the National Mentoring Resource Center website.   Read Now
This review examines the research evidence for mentoring programs that use a group format, in which one or more mentors is matched with a group of youth for a shared mentoring experience.

About the Review:
Each Mentoring Model/Population Review is conducted by the National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board with the intention of examining the full body of rigorous evidence as it pertains to either mentoring for a specific population of youth (e.g., youth with disabilities, immigrant youth) or a specific model of mentoring (e.g., group mentoring, e-mentoring). Each review is built around a thorough literature review for the topic in an attempt to answer key questions about mentoring’s effectiveness, participant characteristics and program processes that influence that effectiveness, and successful implementation of relevant programs to date.

Each Review also contains an “Implication for Practitioners” section that highlights steps programs can take to use or build on this evidence base. A draft version of each review and accompanying implications for practice is anonymously reviewed by at least one practitioner and one researcher who have expertise in the topic. A Research Board member serves as the coordinating editor for each review and makes final decisions regarding the acceptability of its content, prior to submission for final review and approval by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.