Deutsch, N. L., Reitz-Krueger, C. L., Henneberger, A. K., Ehrlich, V. A. F., & Lawrence, E. C. (2016). “It Gave Me Ways to Solve Problems and Ways to Talk to People”: Outcomes From a Combined Group and One-on-One Mentoring Program for Early Adolescent Girls. Journal of Adolescent Research, 0743558416630813.
Summarized by Matthew Hagler
Group mentoring, in which multiple youth form relationships with one or more adults, is becoming increasingly common. It has undergone limited evaluation, but existing research has demonstrated positive youth outcomes, particularly improvements in social skills and peer relationships. Group mentoring might be especially effective when it is combined with one-on-one mentoring, enabling youth to form relationships with both peers and nonparent adults. Previous studies that compared combined group and one-on-one mentoring to one-on-one mentoring alone suggest that the group component uniquely facilitated new peer friendships. The current study uses qualitative methods to evaluate the effects of participation in the Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP), which combines group and one-one-one mentoring between seventh-grade girls and college women.
In the YWLP, seventh-grade girls are assigned to female college student mentors. Participants meet weekly in groups of eight to then mentor-mentee pairs over the course of the school year. Each group is led by a facilitator and follows a curriculum that addresses developmental issues relevant to adolescent girls. Additionally, mentors and mentees spend at least four hours a month outside of the group engaged in activities of their choice. At the end of the year, 113 girls participated in semi-structured interviews asking them about how they changed over the course of the year and what they thought caused those changes. Later in the interview, they were asked specifically about whether and how they thought participation in YWLP changed them. The majority of participants identified as either African-American or Multiracial; almost two-thirds reported receiving free or reduced lunch.
Researchers recorded and transcribed the interviews. The interviews were then analyzed and coded for prominent themes related to how girls felt they had changed, and whether or not YWLP contributed to those changes, and, if so, which component(s) of YWLP contributed to changes.
The analyses identified four major domains in which girls reported making changes as a result of participation in YWLP. Those domains were academics (e.g., study habits), relational development (e.g., trusting people), self-regulation (e.g. thinking before acting), and self-understanding (e.g. knowing and being yourself). Relational and self-understanding were the most commonly reported themes and were also most frequently attributed to YWLP. Girls more often attributed relational development to the program’s group component but tended to report academic changes as a result of one-on-one mentoring. They attributed changes in self-regulation and self-understanding equally to group and mentoring components.
Overall, these results suggest that participation in YWLP had a positive impact on girls in early adolescence. Both the group and one-on-one mentoring components contributed to these positive changes. Consistent with previous research, the group setting was more conducive to developing better interpersonal relationships and social skills, likely from increased positive interactions with a diverse group of peers. On the other hand, one-on-one mentoring helped girls improve academically by teaching them better study habits and encouraging academic goal-setting. Given that adolescents are undergoing transition in a range of domains these finding suggest that the addition of a group component to traditional one-on-one mentoring programs increases their effectiveness and breadth of influence. Peer relationships are an important source of both stress and well-being for adolescent girls and should be addressed by mentoring programs.
This study only included a single girls-only program, and research should be extended to other communities, programs, and populations. Future studies might also use quantitative data in order to calculate effect sizes of the reported changes. However, the qualitative methods used in this study enabled participants to speak in their own voices and direct the conversation to changes they felt were most salient.
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