New meta-analysis of school-based mentoring programs shows promising effects on students’ emotional well-being

Claro, A., & Perelmiter, T. (2021). The Effects of Mentoring Programs on Emotional Well-Being in Youth: A Meta-analysis. Contemporary School Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • While there are many important skills that children develop in school, there are a variety of other essential skills that can be protective factors for their academic success.
  • This study assesses the impact school-based mentoring programs have on mentees’ self-esteem, negative affect, & internalizing behaviors.
  • Findings indicate that there are small to moderate effect sizes of mentorships on the emotional well-being of mentees.
  • Data on specific emotional constructs (self-esteem, negative affect, & internalizing behaviors) reveal that mentoring has…
    • a medium positive effect on self-esteem
    • a medium negative effect on internalizing behavior
    • a small negative effect on negative affect
  • This study a) highlights an important gap in the school intervention literature and b) that mentoring plays an important role in emotional well-being.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

There are a variety of skills that are not directly taught in schools yet serve as protective factors for academic success (i.e., self-efficacy, social, skills; emotional well-being; Graziano et al (Journal of School Psychology 45 3–19 2007); Minnard (Children and Schools 24(4) 233-246 2002). An intervention strategy for promoting such protective factors in school-aged children involves mentoring. Despite the dramatic increase in the implementation of mentoring programs in the first decade of the current century (Herrera et al (Making a difference in schools 2007); Portwood & Ayers (Children and Schools 30 177–185 2005), there remain few systematic program evaluations and even fewer meta-analyses examining the effects of mentoring. Specifically, there is a paucity of research examining the potential benefits of mentoring on emotional well-being. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by providing an overall assessment of the relationship between mentoring and emotional functioning of mentees. A qualitative analysis, as well as a quantitative meta-analysis, examining the effects of mentoring programs on the emotional well-being of school-aged children is presented. Overall, findings provide evidence for a small to moderate positive effect of mentoring on the emotional well-being of youth. Additional analyses focusing on specific emotional constructs indicate that mentoring has a small negative effect (d = 0.20) on negative affect, a medium negative effect on internalizing behavior (d = 0.45), and a medium positive effect on self-esteem (d = 0.45). For children, success in school requires more than reading, writing, and arithmetic thus, mentoring may be one approach to developing the necessary protective factors that can lead to greater success.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This study examined the effects of mentoring programs on the emotional well-being of children and adolescents. It is among the first to synthesize the affective results of a number of program evaluations in order to identify whether mentoring impacts emotional well-being. Meta-analytic findings examining mentoring programs (d = 0.34) suggest a small positive effect for fostering emotional well-being. Additionally, results indicate a small negative effect size (d = 0.20) for the sample-weighted mean of negative affect and medium effect sizes for the sample-weighted means of internalizing behavior (d = 0.45; negative) and self-esteem (d = 0.45; positive), which indicate that mentoring relationships may have a relatively small impact on children and adolescents’ experience of negative emotions. Moreover, the data suggest that mentees benefit more from mentoring relationships with regard to experiencing decreases in internalizing behavior as opposed to negative affect. Mentees may experience slight decreases in negative affect, but it appears they are less likely to direct these negative emotions inwards, as exemplified through their decreases in internalizing behavior. Mentoring relationships also foster feelings of self-worth and competency as demonstrated through increases in self-esteem. In fact, the overall combined effect size for self-esteem fell within the large effect size range, suggesting that mentoring relationships may have its greatest influence on emotional well-being through self-esteem. These findings are consistent with previous studies that highlight a strong link between mentoring programs and affective improvement (Dennison 2000; Walker 2003).

Contrary to past research that demonstrates a relatively weak impact on emotional outcomes (DuBois et al. 2002), the current study demonstrates a range of effect sizes from small to large, with the majority of emotional well-being variables falling within the medium range. Given the lack of studies examining the effects of school-based mentoring programs on mentee emotional well-being, the current study addresses an important empirical gap in the field of emotion-based school intervention. Such research has important clinical implications, as the findings indicate mentoring has an important effect on emotional well-being.

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