Researchers propose pyramid model for mentoring African American youth

Washington, G., Barnes, D., & Watts, R. J. (2014). Reducing risk for youth violence by promoting healthy development with pyramid mentoring: A proposal for a culturally centered group mentoring. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 24646-657. doi:10.1080/10911359.2014.922789

Summarized by Julia Mancini


Notes of Interest: This article describes the development of a comprehensive culturally sensitive group mentoring approach called pyramid mentoring (PM) congruent with an Afrocentric worldview to promote healthy development of its youth. This intervention aims to provide empirically testable outcomes related to youth violence in African American communities. While proposed as a model, the present study serves as a reminder that there is room for innovation in how to use mentoring to help meet the needs of young people across the country.


Summary (reprinted from the Abstract):

This article proposes ways to promote healthy psychosocial development among at-risk young African American males with a multigenerational culturally centered group mentoring intervention. The potential for addressing commonalities of risk factors for both internalized and externalized responses to environment stressors is discussed.

The authors propose an innovative group intervention that is influenced by social learning theory, the triadic theory of influence, identity, and cognitive development theory. The article also highlights research that suggests benefits of culturally and therapeutically centered group mentoring. The focus of the proposed intervention is on psychosocial assets that are utilized to nurture life skills developed within the framework of a culturally centered multigenerational group mentoring process called pyramid mentoring (PM).


Implications (reprinted from the discussion and conclusion):

The proposed intervention has three objectives:

  1. To train and support culturally conscious empathic men, called elders, to create genuine relationships and interactions that will nurture cultural socialization processes. These relationships will contribute to rebuilding the communities, constructing social fabric via integration of information, sharing of experiences, and processing of thoughts and feelings.
  2. To provide a safe group setting for the exploration of values, attitudes, and behaviors that nurture the healthy development of African American males. The safe space allows for the practice of culturally centered life skills that include pro-social behaviors, emotional coping, and critical consciousness and thinking abilities.
  3. To create a community resource that is a part of a stable mentoring network accessible to youth. This dynamic community resource will help youth process past, present, and future developmental experiences while integrating therapeutic recreation that is culturally centered (martial arts, drumming, basketball, etc.) and designed to nurture self-esteem.

PM incorporates comprehensive training for mentors in what Washington (2005) proposed as a three-level framework for interacting with young African American males. A comprehensive psychosocial assessment is recommended so the youth can receive the appropriate level of intervention that could include Level I-Interactive Recreation; Level II-Supportive Educational Assistance; and Level III-Supportive Therapeutic Assistance.

PM is also influenced by African-centered rites of passage traditions and the 7 Field Principles Model of Carl Bell (2004) that was designed to promote community-based health behavior change.

The seven field principles include:

  1. rebuilding the village/constructing social fabric,
  2. providing access to modern technology,
  3. improving bonding, attachment, and connectedness dynamics,
  4. improving self-esteem,
  5. increasing social and emotional skills of target recipient
  6. providing an adult protective shield, and
  7. minimizing trauma (Bell & McKay, 2004).

This culturally centered multiple-generations therapeutic focus could be considered central to a new generation of innovative interventions attempting to increase the healthy development and healing of at-risk African American children. Scholars and practitioners who promote cultural and political socialization of African American male youth as a means to enhance healthy manhood identity development (Stevenson, 2003) have been utilizing the rich history and tradition of African American resistance to oppression as valuable components of their interventions because they can influence the development of critical thinking and skills to overcome direct and indirect power blocks.

The utilization of culturally centered, multi-contextual, and multi-generational approaches to addressing risk for the broad continuum of African American male youth violence is warranted, given the persistent impact of violence on families in impoverished African American communities. Ultimately, this proposed group intervention will be designed to offer empirically testable outcomes related to youth violence. Culturally sensitive process and outcome evaluation process will be needed to capture the influence of the mentoring relationships, cultural factors, and group processes on the youth violence risk factors.

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