Burton, S., Raposa, E. B., Poon, C. Y. S., Stams, G. J. J. M., & Rhodes, J. (2021). Cross-age peer mentoring for youth: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12579
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- This meta-analysis a) predicted the overall effect sizes of cross-age mentoring programs via a multilevel meta-analytic approach and b) examined potential moderators of peer-mentoring program effectiveness.
- There’s a medium-sized overall effect size of cross-age peer mentoring programs (g = 0.45).
- Findings indicated that there were a few traits that moderated effect sizes.
- Programs in urban areas or out of school environments (operated during the summers, weekends, or in communities) had larger effects.
- There were also bigger effects for peer mentoring programs with moderate to high levels of adult supervision and oversight.
- Cross-age mentoring is a viable and accessible approach for promoting positive youth outcomes.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Although most mentoring programs for youth are structured around intergenerational relationships, a growing number of programs rely on cross-age peer mentoring. Such programs capitalize on the availability of youth mentors to promote positive outcomes in younger peers. This study used a multilevel meta-analytic approach to estimate the effect size of cross-age peer mentoring programs and evaluate potential moderators of peer mentoring program effectiveness. Analyses included six studies and revealed a medium-sized overall effect of cross-age peer mentoring programs (g = 0.45). Several characteristics moderated effect sizes, with larger effects for programs that were conducted outside of the school setting (i.e., weekend, summer, or in community settings), conducted in urban settings, and had moderate/high levels of adult oversight and supervision. Results highlight the potential benefits of cross-age peer mentoring for youth.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
This study represents the first comprehensive meta-analysis of cross-age peer mentoring programs for youth. Analyses revealed a medium-sized overall effect of cross-age peer mentoring programs (g = 0.45), with no differences in mentoring impact across different types of youth outcomes. Several program and methodological characteristics did moderate effect sizes, with larger effects for programs that were operated in the community or outside of the school day (i.e., weekend or summer), conducted in urban settings, and included moderate to high levels of adult oversight and supervision. Although these findings should be interpreted with caution given the limited number of programs included in this study, the results highlight the potential benefits of cross-age peer mentoring for youth and indicate a need for further research in this area.
This meta-analysis builds upon past meta-analyses that have demonstrated the impact of intergenerational youth mentoring programs in which an adult mentor is paired with the youth mentee, with many of those studies yielding statistically significant, but small effect sizes (i.e., ranging from g = 0.18–0.21; DuBois et al., 2002, 2011; Raposa et al., 2019). The effect size for cross-age peer mentoring in our study is more than double that observed in these past meta-analyses. This difference is notable, given the far greater emphasis on intergenerational mentoring programs compared to cross-age peer mentoring programs in practice and in the research literature. Cross-age peer mentoring can offer feasible and efficient opportunities to have older peers mentor youth (e.g., by pairing up youth from different grades within the same school) with the potential for mutual benefit. It is also important to note the limited sample size (n = 6) of studies in our analyses, which likely influenced the lack of differentiation in effect sizes across different types of youth outcomes. This small sample size is due, in part, to rigorous inclusion criteria that adhered strictly to a cross-age peer mentoring framework, such that only studies that evaluated mentoring programs in which an older youth (at least two years older) acted in a nonprofessional helping capacity with a specific younger person to promote positive youth outcomes were included (Karcher & Berger, 2017). Nevertheless, future studies should replicate and expand upon these results when analyses may be better powered to detect heterogeneity across effect sizes and moderators that explain this heterogeneity.
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