The impact mentoring has on the psychological & academic outcomes of unaccompanied migrant youth in Barcelona

Alarcón, X., Bobowik, M., & Prieto-Flores, Ò. (2021). Mentoring for Improving the Self-Esteem, Resilience, and Hope of Unaccompanied Migrant Youth in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(10), 5210.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • The number of unaccompanied migrant youths in Europe has grown over the past few years.
  • The settlement process is a stressful experience for many unaccompanied migrant youths and can negatively affect their mental health.
  • This study assesses how a mentoring program, called Referents, affects the psychological and educational outcomes of unaccompanied migrant youths living in the Barcelona metropolitan area.
  • Findings show that participation in mentoring programs improved mentees’ psychological (self-esteem, hope, and resilience) outcomes and gave them the emotional stability to a) become more educated and b) transition safely into adulthood.
  • Results also indicate that mentorships encouraged youth to disclose their feelings that affect their self-esteem.
  • Well-targeted, problem-specific mentorships have a positive impact on unaccompanied migrant youths’ mental health outcomes.
  • It’s imperative to make structural changes in immigration policy while providing mentoring interventions to improve their transition to adulthood.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

In the last few years, the number of unaccompanied youths arriving in Europe has increased steadily. During their settlement in host countries, they are exposed to a great variety of vulnerabilities, which have an impact on their mental health. This research examines the effects of participation in a mentoring programme on the psychological and educational outcomes among unaccompanied migrant youths who live in the Barcelona metropolitan area. Data in this mixed-methods study were obtained from 44 surveys with mentored (treatment group) and non-mentored (control group) male youths who had recently turned 18, as well as through thirty semi-structured interviews with mentored youths, their adult mentors, and non-mentored youths. Our findings indicated that participation in the mentoring programme improved the mentored youths’ self-esteem, resilience, and hope, as well as their desired or expected educational outcomes in this new context. We conclude that well-targeted and problem-specific mentoring programmes have positive and marked effects on unaccompanied migrant youths’ mental health. The social and political implications of these outcomes are also discussed, providing information on how interventions can offer effective networks of support for the settlement and social inclusion of unaccompanied migrant youths.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This research aimed to identify whether the absence or presence of adult mentors providing social support can condition unaccompanied youths’ well-being and their future prospects in their new context, especially taking into account implications for their transition to adulthood. The findings of this study showed the existing connections between the social support unaccompanied youth have in the receiving society, their mental health, and the possibilities for constructing new educational futures. Those who have less caring relationships (such as those from the control group) counted on the support of youth workers who helped them to comply with the formalities of their transition to adulthood, but most of them felt left emotionally on their own. Thus, coming of age for these young people became an odyssey that altered their mental health and well-being due to the pressure they felt when coping with housing and legal status once they turned 18 and left the minor protection system. However, we have observed that those youths who had broader social support because of their participation in a mentoring programme saw improvements in their psychological well-being outcomes (such as self-esteem, resilience and youth hope), and that such support provided them with the emotional stability to seek a higher educational path and achieve a safer transition to adulthood.

These results obtained with unaccompanied migrant youths corroborate prior research showing the significant effects of mentoring programmes on various youth outcomes, such as resilience, self-esteem, or youth hope, for youths either in care or transitioning out of the foster care system [84,85]. While some meta-analyses have shown that these effects may be modest for youth mentoring programmes in general (for example Hedges’ g = 0.21; both in Raposa et al. [52] and DuBois et al. [54]), the effect sizes of programmes which have a clear targeted population and are more problem-specific (such as the one we studied) tend to be higher, and double those of programmes with non-specific approaches [62,86]. The evidence from this study supports this argument because the effect sizes for the values studied are well above 0.50.

To access this article, click here.