summarized by Laura Yoviene
Chan, C., Rhodes, J., Howard, W., Schwartz, S., Lowe, & S. Herrera, C. (2013). Pathways of influence in school-based mentoring: The mediating role of parent and teacher relationships. Journal of School Psychology, 51, 129-142.
Although school-based mentoring (SBM) is the most common approach to formal mentoring in the United States, recent reviews have shown that typical SBM mentoring relationships yield only modest results for the positive effects of SBM on youth (i.e. DuBois, Portillo, Rhodes, Silverthorn, & Valentine, 2011; Wheeler, Keller, & DuBois, 2010). Building off past findings that higher quality mentoring relationships and programs are associated with stronger effects, the current study investigates how both parental and teacher relationships may be a pathway through which high quality mentoring relationships lead to positive youth outcomes (Rhodes et al., 2000; Rhodes et al., 2005; Spencer, 2006).
The current study used data from a large-scale evaluation of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) SBM programs (Herrera et al., 2007; Herrera et al., 2011). Mentees (n=526) were an average of 11 years old and were matched with mentors who were on average 26 years old; matches lasted for approximately 5 months. Assessments were conducted at baseline and follow-up to measure the youth’s perception of relationship quality with the mentor, teacher, and parents; youth outcomes of misconduct, prosocial behavior, academic attitudes, self-esteem, and overall grades.
The study found that higher quality mentoring relationships were associated with improvements in students’ relationships with their parents and teachers. These findings extend previous research by highlighting the influence that mentors can play in improving the youth-teacher relationship in a school-based setting. These improvements were associated with the following school-related psychological and behavioral outcomes: improved academic attitudes, self-esteem, and increased prosocial behavior.
Higher quality mentoring relationships extend beyond improving the parent-child relationship and encompass improvements in youth-teacher relationships. Consistent with the social nature of learning, close youth-teacher relationships demonstrate a myriad of positive academic outcomes in youth. These findings demonstrate how the quality of the youth-mentor relationship have great implications for increasing the effectiveness of school-based mentoring.
Additional efforts to promote high quality mentoring relationships should be made to facilitate these positive outcomes; for example, mentoring training should focus on relationship building, and greater post-match mentor support should be offered in future SBM programs. Program staff should establish collaborative relationships with parents and teachers in order to increase the chances of reinforcing the mentor’s positive influences. Lastly, this study suggest the potential impact of bringing caring adults into school settings has implications to foster positive youth outcomes, beyond mentoring relationships.