Summarized by Rachel Thompson
Notes of Interest: This study examines the associations between natural (informal) mentoring relationships, sociodemographic characteristics, bullying perpetration, and 2 educational outcomes (repeating grade at school and low school engagement) among US school-aged children 6-17 years. It also examines the mediating effect of bullying on the association between the natural mentoring and educational outcomes. The findings empirically the protective effects of natural mentoring, and how it can be an opportunity to build community capacity to recognize bullying.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
BACKGROUND: Ensuring the optimum development of all children and their attainment of age-appropriate educational outcomes is of great interest to public health researchers and professionals. Bullying and mentoring have opposite effects on child development and educational attainment. Mentoring exerts protective effects on youths against risky behaviors; however, the protective effects of community-oriented natural or informal mentoring on educational outcomes and bullying are largely under-explored. We examine associations between mentoring, bullying, and educational outcomes among US school-aged children 6-17 years. METHODS: We analyzed the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health (N = 65,593) to estimate prevalence and odds of repeating a grade in school, lower school engagement, and bullying perpetration according to mentoring receipt and sociodemographic characteristics. RESULTS: Overall, 5.4% of US school-aged children without a mentor perpetrated bullying against other children; 11.4% repeated more than one grade in school; and 23.0% had low school engagement. Children without mentors had 2.1 and 1.3 times higher adjusted odds, respectively, of bullying other children and low school engagement than those with mentors. Proportion of children who bullied others or repeated grades was higher among minority children. CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate that mentoring may be a pathway for providing programs that prevent bullying and improve educational outcomes among school-aged children.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
Our results have several implications for school health in particular but the health of school-aged children in general. Improvements in health and educational. Our study indicates that natural mentoring might be a potential pathway for preventing bullying and thus improving educational outcomes impinged by bullying for all school-aged children. Schools should integrate mentoring programs into their regular afterschool programs and not just as funded programs. One way to accomplish this is to create academic community partnerships with nonprofit and faith-based organizations within the school district who will provide these mentoring programs. School leaders and administrators should work toward development of formal and ongoing relationships with these organizations so they can provide the platforms for natural mentoring at the community level. Future studies are, nonetheless, needed to examine whether natural mentoring is more effective in bullying prevention and improving educational outcomes among children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. With formal mentoring programs costing as much as $1900 per youth per year, sustained funding for formal mentoring programs in the face of dwindling resources presents a challenge.
Our findings support the fiscal imperatives of harnessing natural mentoring relationships by leveraging existing social capital in local communities in a manner that sustains continuing mentoring outside of the often regimented programmatic mentoring. For school health practitioners, the results of this study provide some impetus for continued collaboration between school authorities and members of the community in ensuring a continuity in mentoring relationships centered at children. Schools should work with nonprofit and faith-based organizations in the development of training programs to organizations interested in providing opportunities for mentoring in their establishments.
Information from this study will be useful for policymakers and program planners in determining when and how to use natural mentoring relationship in addressing education-related outcomes. The information will also be useful in determining which components of formal mentoring programs could best be implemented in community settings with increased efficiency, effectiveness, and long-term sustainability. Local community leaders desirous of contributing to the optimum development and improved educational outcomes of children from their communities should organize themselves into groups and working with educational leaders develop a set of core principles of positive life development that they would like children from their communities to inculcate. These principles can then be integrated into the community mentoring curriculum that children will undergo and thus foster community buy-in to these mentoring programs and make them part of the community rather than funded ad hoc programs that go away at the end of grant funding.
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