Importance of attunement to mentoring relationships and mentees’ academic support-seeking behavior?

Weiler, L., Chesmore, A., Pryce, J., Haddock, S., & Rhodes, T. (2019). Mentor Response to Youth Academic Support–Seeking Behavior: Does Attunement Matter? Youth & Society, 51(4), 548-569.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: Mentoring interventions are appealing methods to help lower the chances of poor academic performance, school absence, and dropping-out, for adolescent offenders. However, the successfulness of programs are mixed, thus, indicating that more research on program effectiveness is needed. Weil’s, Chesmore’s, Pryce’s, Haddock’s, and Rhode’s (2019) within-group study explores the connection between youth academic outcomes and attunement in order to see how those two factors play a role in these mentoring interventions. Participants took part in a time-restricted mentoring program. Results indicated that children with attuned mentors received better post-intervention scores than for children with mis-attuned mentors; the findings also suggest that tracking academic attunement is important.


Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Mentoring-based interventions for adolescent offenders are promising strategies for reducing the likelihood of academic underachievement, truancy, and school dropout. Program effectiveness, however, varies widely. Investigation into factors that strengthen the impact of mentoring on academic-related outcomes is warranted. One factor might be academic attunement, or the degree to which a mentor’s emphasis on academics is consistent with youth’s academic support–seeking behavior and desire for academic help. This within-group study examined the relationship between mentor attunement and academic outcomes among youth (N = 204; ages 11-18; 54.5% male) who participated in a time-limited mentoring program. Latent profile analysis identified three distinct groups: attuned mentors, overfocused mentors, and underfocused mentors. In general, youth with attuned mentors reported better postintervention scores as compared with youth with misattuned (i.e., overfocused or underfocused) mentors on perception of school usefulness and importance, academic self-efficacy, and truancy, but not grade point average. Findings suggest the importance of monitoring academic attunement.


Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The present study examined the relationship between mentor attunement and youths’ GPA, truancy, academic self-efficacy, perception of school useful- ness, and perception of school importance. A latent profile analysis revealed three distinct groups based on mentor attunement, including one attuned group and two misattuned groups (i.e., overfocused and underfocused men- tors). Mentors in all three groups appeared to appropriately read the cues of youth’s desire for academic support, such that their perception of academic support–seeking behavior was consistent with that of youth-reported desire for academic help. Mentor’s response to youth’s bids for support, however, varied. As a result, some mentors were categorized as misattuned, with a larger percentage overemphasizing academics and a smaller percentage underemphasizing academics in response to youth’s needs.

Postintervention differences were observed between the attuned and misattuned groups. Relative to youth matched with an overfocused or under- focused mentor, youth matched with an attuned mentor were more likely to perceive school as important and helpful. Youth with attuned mentors also reported higher academic self-efficacy and less truancy as compared with their counterparts in the overfocused group. These findings are consistent with the literature that suggests misattuned mentors are less effective than youth-centered and collaborative mentors (Herrera et al., 2000; Karcher & Nakkula, 2010; Langhout et al., 2004; Larose et al., 2010; Morrow & Styles, 1995; Pryce, 2012). No significant postintervention mean differences were observed for GPA. It is possible that the improvement in academic self-effi- cacy and attitude toward school as a result of the attuned mentoring relation- ship will lead to improvements in GPA over time, or that a longer program would be more effective. YouthFriends, a school-based mentoring program, for example, found a significant improvement in GPA over the course of a year (Portwood et al., 2005). Alternatively, GPA may be more difficult for


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