The roles schools and program predictors have on mentoring dyads and how mentor satisfaction can affect mentor retention

Aresi, G., Pozzi, M., & Marta, E. (2020). Programme and school predictors of mentoring relationship quality and the role of mentors’ satisfaction in volunteer retention. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Relationships between experienced non-parental mentors and younger mentees not only provide youth with access to more supportive adults in their lives but can also have a positive impact on their development.
  • This study explores two different things: 
    1. School and program predictors of establishing close mentoring relationships.
    2. The association between mentor-reported relationship closeness, relationship satisfaction (as a subjective evaluation of one’s progress), and intention to continue mentoring in the future. 
  • Findings indicate that relationship closeness is positively correlated with perceived adequacy of program support and of the mentoring setting – with the exception of teacher support.
  • Results also show that mentors’ satisfaction partially mediates the relationship between relationship closeness and motive to stay in the program.
  • A relationship is a catalyst for implementing change with mentoring programs, while mentor retention helps produce better outcomes. 

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

The quality of the mentor–mentee relationship is considered the key mechanism of change in mentoring programmes, and volunteer mentor retention is crucial to improving delivery and outcomes. Combining theoretical frameworks on mentoring programmes and volunteerism, this study aimed to examine: (a) programme and school predictors of mentoring relationship closeness and (b) the relations between mentor‐reported relationship closeness, satisfaction with the relationship as a measure of subjective evaluations of their work and expressed intention to continue mentoring in the future. Volunteer mentors (N = 103, mean age = 65 years, 75% female) from a school‐based mentoring programme in Italy completed a survey. Results of path analyses revealed that relationship closeness was associated in a positive manner with perceptions of the adequacy of the mentoring session setting, and programme support, but not teacher support. In addition, mentors’ satisfaction partially mediated the connection between relationship closeness and intention to remain in the programme. Implications for practice are discussed. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article’s Community and Social Impact Statement.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Combining theoretical frameworks on mentoring programmes (Keller, 2005; Rhodes, 2005; Rhodes et al., 2006) and volunteerism (Born et al., 2015; Omoto & Snyder, 1995; Snyder & Omoto, 2000), this study addresses gaps in the literature in regard to factors related to the quality of mentoring relationships and volunteer engagement with the programme.

After controlling for match length (Rhodes et al., 2017), the analyses demonstrated that mentor‐reported relationship closeness was associated in a positive manner with programme and setting‐specific factors involved in the implementation of school‐based mentoring. We speculate that mentors’ feelings of having been well prepared prior to the match and being continuously supported in their work with their mentees result in mentors that are better equipped to forge a strong connection with their mentees and, in case they encounter any difficulties, can receive guidance and support (Herrera et al., 2013). This is consistent with results of previous research and established guidelines on mentoring programmes, highlighting the importance of high‐quality pre‐match training and ongoing support (MENTOR, 2015; Spencer, 2007b).

School factors received much less attention from scholars than programme characteristics (De Wit et al., 2019). This study revealed that the degree of appropriateness of the setting where mentors and mentees meet is related to greater relationship quality. Developmental mentoring programmes focus on establishing a close relationship more than achieving specific outcomes (e.g., academic performance), and mentors are allowed a high level of discretion in session activity (Lakind, Atkins, & Eddy, 2015; Rhodes, 2005). For this reason, a suitable environment, that is reserved and equipped with appropriate materials, may aid mentors in connecting with their mentees through games and shared activities. However, limited guidance is currently available for mentoring programmes on best practices and standards for where meetings take place (MENTOR, 2015). In our study, setting adequacy referred to privacy and the availability of materials, nevertheless other aspects may be important to highlight. Future studies could examine in greater detail what characteristics of the setting are important for mentors, which can contribute to relationship quality, and if results of this study extend to other forms of mentoring, including community‐based programmes, where the setting is more discretionary.

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