Reflections on the mentoring process by adult mentors with young people

Reflections on the mentoring process by adult mentors with young peoplePhilip, K., & Hendry, L. B. (2000). Making sense of mentoring or mentoring making sense? Reflections on the mentoring process by adult mentors with young people†. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology10(3), 211-223.


Mentoring is a way to help ease transitions to adulthood by providing developmental support. However, the processes of mentoring relationships, particularly in mentors’ perceptions of the processes, have not been studied in depth.


This qualitative study was conducted in Scotland, using group and individual interviews. 30 adolescents aged between 13 and 18 years old were interviewed. In addition, 30 adult mentors were also interviewed.


While adolescents identified traditional adult-adolescent mentoring as relevant, they also perceived other kinds of mentoring processes as important in present-day society. These included:

1)    Individual/team: a group looks to an individual or small number of individuals for support, advice, and challenge.

2)    Best friend: young people may feel more comfortable disclosing sensitive information to peers, or rehearsing values and beliefs “safely” before action is taken.

3)    Peer group mentoring: ordinary friendship groups taking on mentoring roles around certain common issues, such as stages of relationships with significant others.

4)    Long-term mentoring with “risk-taking” adults: a relationship between a young person and a mentor with a history of rebellion and is perceived by the young person as resisting adult definitions of the social world, who may be more relatable.


Mentors perceived the primary benefits of mentoring as:

1)     Putting them in touch with the realities of young people’s experiences within a community/neighborhood;

2)    Offering the potential to redefine adult/young person relationships; and

3)    Providing acceptable support and challenge, meeting young people as equals.


Conclusion and Implications

This study provides insight into the different types of mentoring support that a youth receives beyond the classic model of adult-youth mentoring. Peer support includes elements of reciprocity and confidentiality that help a youth feel more comfortable. How can these elements be integrated into mentoring interventions that also include elements of challenge and assessment by the mentor? In this study, the youth stressed the similarities in experience as especially helpful for the youth to feel accepted as individuals on their own terms.