Does organizing mentor-mentee matches into small groups help? A new study has answers

Haddock, S. A., Weiler, L. M., Lee, H., Henry, K. L., Lucas-Thompson, R., Zimmerman, T. S., Krafchick, J. L., Fredrickson, G. F., Yetz, N., & Youngblade, L. M. (2020). Does organizing mentor-mentee matches into small groups enhance treatment effects in a site-based mentoring program for adolescents? Results of a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 49, 1864-1882.

Summarized by Monica Arkin

Notes of Interest:

  • This randomized-controlled trial compared two mentoring program structures, one in which mentor-mentee pairs were embedded in a small group of other pairs, and one in which pairs were not embedded in a group.
  • Mentees in both conditions improved on several outcome measures at the completion of the study.
  • Findings suggest that multiple program structures have the potential to positively influence youth.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Formal youth mentoring is an effective intervention strategy for healthy development during adolescence. Modest and varied effects across programs, however, demonstrate a need to identify factors that can reliably improve outcomes for mentored youth. The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to test the relative impact of embedding mentee-mentor matches in small groups on youth outcomes and to examine whether this effect was mediated by the quality of the program setting and mentoring relationship quality. Participants included 676 adolescents (Mage = 14.21, range = 11–18; 41.6% female) enrolled in Campus Connections, a site-based youth mentoring program. Most measured outcomes in both conditions (i.e., mentoring groups and a control condition in which pairs were not embedded in a group) were significantly better at postintervention as compared to pre-intervention. The hypothesis that mentoring groups would have stronger impact, however, was not supported. The results imply that organizing mentor-mentee matches in small groups offer no advantage or disadvantage and that youth may be able to garner benefit from both structures.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The results of this study highlight the continued importance of seeking to identify the key mechanisms of change within mentoring programs and of conducting rigorous evaluations of key program components. The results also highlight one of the strengths of mentoring as an intervention strategy for promoting positive youth development; that is, mentoring can be effective in a diversity of program designs. For instance, there is evidence for the effectiveness of one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, hybrid mentoring, and site-based models, and in diverse types of settings (schools, after-school programs, etc). Although this study was not a test of mentoring, youth appeared better off at the end of the intervention in both conditions within a site-based intervention, which provides empirical support for program flexibility.

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