New research reviews mentoring program supporting Native American youth

Aschenbrener & Johnson. (2017). Educationally-Based, Culturally-Sensitive, Theory-Driven mentorship intervention with At-risk Native American youth in South Dakota: A narrative review. The Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 14-27. doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0537-z

 Summarized by Julia Mancini

Notes of Interest: This article suggests the use of strengths framework as well as social learning theory in mentorship programs with Native American youth. The authors call for further investigation into comprehensive programming methods that have shown promise to support this group that struggles with many social problems but for which there has not been much research done.

Summary (reprinted from the Abstract):

Native American youth struggle with many social issues such as poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and dropping out of high school, as a result of historical trauma and the current conditions on the reservation. This narrative review found that existing mentorship programs lack adequate research, particularly with Native American youth and youth from rural settings, yet the limited research does demonstrate potential promise.

Available research findings suggest that mentorship programs are supporting at-risk youth generally, particularly with increasing their self-worth as well as having educational benefit for the youth. Two theoretical frameworks, strengths perspective and social learning theory, have been determined to offer support to increase the value of mentorship programs for Native American youth.

This narrative review concludes that by understanding the social issues and the impact of historical trauma as well as understanding the use of applied theories, strong programming, and helpful factors or considerations, a culturally-sensitive, educationally-based mentorship intervention has potential to support at-risk Native American youth feel motivated to move forward with their educational futures.

Implications (reprinted from the discussion and conclusion):

This review concluded that the strengths perspective is an appropriate framework for prevention-based programming developed to support Native American youth, yet more research studies are needed. It can be culturally sensitive, age-appropriate, and future-driven. This perspective values the strengths of the Native American culture and spirituality while inspiring the application of the youth’s strengths to overcome the social problems they confront in their lives and on their reservation. This evaluation is predicated on the notion that strengths can help the students further develop their expectations about their educational futures.

This narrative review found social learning theory to be a solid framework that can be used in creating programs to support Native American youth too. By focusing on both the individual and the environment, strengthens the applicability of the social learning theory to the context in which the program being delivered is evaluated. Additionally, by asserting the value of role modeling as an essential pieces of cognitive, emotional, and social development. However, research examining empirical support for this theory with Native American youth in contemporary contexts has not been undertaken.

The review documented the value of mentorship programs, including strengthening the youth’s current educational engagement as well as their expectations about their educational futures. Yet, this narrative review concluded that more research on mentorship programs is needed, as they vary and are complex in terms of their development, implementation, and outcomes.

Further, more research is needed on the influence of mentorship programs on oppressed groups as Native American youth. When supporting Native American youth who confront many serious challenges, program developers should understand the youth’s strengths and environmental factors that can enhance these strengths.

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