New review explores how adults are influenced by the experience of mentoring youth

Anderson, A. J., & DuBois, D. L. (2022). Are adults influenced by the experience of mentoring youth? A scoping review. Journal of Community Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Youth mentorships are known for promoting a variety of positive youth-related outcomes.
  • While many systemic reviews and meta-analyses assess the impact mentoring relationships have on youth, not many of them examine how mentorships impact adult youth mentors.
  • This study reviews the current literature on youth mentoring’s impact on adult mentors to pinpoint trends in the methods and results.
  • 58% of the studies focused on mentors ages 18-22 years (only 10% focused on mentors ages 35+).
  • A significant amount of mentors worked in higher education settings.
  • 56% of studies used qualitative methods. 19% were quantitative. 25% were mixed methods.
  • Included quantitative and mixed methods studies have a notable risk of bias due to their designs (for instance, only 19% had a control group).
  • Most of the included studies evaluated how youth mentoring affected adult mentors’ social/relational domains (46%), as well as their academic & career-related outcomes (55%).
  • A majority of included studies that identified potential mentor effects were positive.
  • There’s a need for more experimental studies and quantitative, longitudinal research to explore how youth mentoring influences adult mentors.
  • Future scholarship on this subject needs to assess mentors that work outside of higher education settings.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)


A relatively large body of research exists on the effectiveness of mentoring programs directed at youth and numerous syntheses of this literature have proven useful for advancing both research and practice. Less studied, but also important is the potential for adults serving in the role of mentor to young persons to be influenced by this experience. A scoping review was conducted with the aim of identifying and critically assessing major trends in the methods and findings in this literature.


Included sources were empirical studies reporting findings that address potential influences on adults (18+) serving as mentors to youth (<18) in formal programs designed for this purpose. The initial search resulted in 3155 records and 96 were included in the review.


Approximately half of the studies (58%) focused on younger adults (ages 18–22 years old, e.g., college students) serving as mentors; only a small minority of studies focused on adults over 35 years old (10%). Most studies were qualitative (n = 54). Studies with a quantitative component (n = 18 quantitative only; n = 24 mixed methods) exhibited a significant risk of bias for inferring effects on mentors due to limitations in study design (e.g., lack of comparison group). Studies most often addressed potential outcomes for mentors in academic/career (55%) and social (45%) domains, when findings suggested possible effects on mentors, they were nearly universally in a positive direction.


Existing research, although consistent with the potential for adults to benefit from the experience of mentoring youth, has insufficient rigor and representativeness to adequately address this question. Future research should utilize more rigorous quantitative designs and samples with greater representativeness of the different stages of adult development.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This scoping review provides an overview of the existing evidence base regarding the ways in which adults may be influenced by the experience of mentoring children and adolescents in programs designed for this purpose, the methods used in these studies, and characteristics of the mentors and programs involved which evidence has been gathered. The review complements existing syntheses of youth mentoring research (e.g., DuBois et al., 2002; Kaufman et al., 2021; Raposa et al., 2019) as the first systematic synthesis to the authors’ knowledge of research on how adult mentors may be influenced by formal youth mentoring. In the following sections, we consider our findings by research question, identify gaps in the existing evidence base, and provide suggestions for future research.

4.1 Domains of potential influence

The central aim of this review was to map evidence on the ways in which adults may be influenced by their participation in formal mentoring of youth. The domains investigated or reported on most often in this regard were academic/career and social. Findings of the studies involved are generally consistent with the experience of mentoring a young person being able to prove helpful in both of these areas. The emphasis on investigating potential academic and career benefits is likely a reflection of many of the studies being focused on college students who were serving as mentors in connection with service learning or other coursework. The findings of these studies suggest that mentoring youth frequently had the effect of stimulating or deepening interest in pursuing careers in professions such as education or counseling. The process of making connections such as this to concerns in the educational realm may have been facilitated by the opportunities for reflection on field experience that are typically incorporated into service learning.

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