The value of career mentoring programs for justice-involved youths

Varghese, F. P., Bihm, E. M., Gibbons, C., Bull, C., Whitmore, J., Nolan, J., & Tomas Flores, L. (2022). Pilot Study of Career Mentoring Program for Juveniles. Psychological Services. Advance online publication.

Summarized by Charlotte Styron and Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Employment plays an important role in preventing recidivism among adults involved with the justice system.
  • Providing justice-involved youth with resources to explore career possibilities can reduce future deviant behavior.
  • Given how people frequently overlook the career development of justice-involved youths, it is essential to establish community-based programs that promote career development and reduce criminal risk factors.
  • This paper examines a career mentoring program for justice-involved youths.
  • The mentoring program effectively promoted pro-social motivation and pro-social job interests.
  • The mentored group was more interested in professional and attainable jobs that involve helping people.
  • The treatment-as-usual (TAU) group didn’t shift interest in having professional jobs; their pro-social motives for job preferences decreased.
    • They were more interested in jobs associated with fame (e.g., actor or athlete) or authority-related jobs that involved force (e.g., police or military).
  • Assisting youths with figuring out their interests and researching information about different jobs can help them become more aware of possible careers, make feasible career decisions, and pursue their passions.
  • Mentees were overall pleased with the program sessions. Many of them enjoyed looking up future jobs and attending future-oriented sessions.
  • Given the widespread popularity and usage of technologies, researchers should consider evaluating the potential of digital mentoring (via apps) or telehealth mentoring to make mentor-mentee relationships more accessible.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

This article describes an innovative career-mentoring program for court-ordered juveniles that targets risk factors of recidivism and incorporates elements of effective career intervention. Youth were randomly assigned to a mentoring group or a treatment-as-usual (TAU) group. The mentoring group received nine sessions of a structured career-mentoring program from students at a university. The TAU group received other programs provided by the court. Results at posttest indicated that the mentoring group exhibited more pro-social motivations for work, more realistic attitudes toward work, and more professional job interests than the TAU group. Persons in the mentoring group enjoyed their mentoring experience with their university student mentors. Results have implications for cost-effective programs for court-ordered youth at a crucial time in their development.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This is the first article on a mentoring program for adjudicated youth that uses an interdisciplinary approach that targeted risk factors as noted by the RNR model (Bonta & Andrews, 2017). The RNR model was combined with the components of effective career interventions (Brown et al., 2003), and results from this pilot study suggested that such a program may enhance career development by increasing pro-social career attitudes and interests. The program also has the potential to serve youth in educational and clinical settings.

Qualitative analyses, with the pilot data, suggest that the mentor-ing program was successful in helping youths increase pro-social job interests and pro-social motivation. After going through the program, juveniles in the mentoring group had a higher endorsement of professional and more attainable jobs, less endorsement of jobs focused on fame, and greater endorsement of pursuing work for the purpose of helping others. This contrasts with the TAU group, which received other programs routinely offered by the court. The TAU group demonstrated higher endorsement of jobs focused on fame, higher endorsement of authority-related jobs that use force (i.e., military and police), no increase in preference for professional jobs, and a decrease in pro-social motivations for their job preferences (i.e., helping others). Further, at least one participant in the TAU group increased in the endorsement of thrill seeking as a motivation for a job from pretest to posttest. This finding is important because adolescents, particularly youth prone to illicit and risky activities, are more likely to desire fame (Williams et al., 2000) and have a sensation-seeking personality (Wilson & Daly, 2006).

Importantly, passion for their work interests did not show decreases for either group. This is especially relevant for the mentoring group, as findings also show that while youths in the mentoring group increased in their desire of wanting to work professional jobs and increasing desire to want to help others, passion for the work did not decrease. Therefore, during the process of mentoring and changes in their job preference, interest was still high for their job. These initial findings suggest that helping youths with their interests and helping them look up the information for jobs may be valuable in helping them expand their knowledge of job choices and being realistic in their job choices, as well as keeping their passion. In addition, coupled with the satisfactory ratings that indicated that many youths liked looking up jobs and focusing on their future, this can be an effective component of mentoring adjudicated youth. Given that the youth in the mentoring program expressed that they had a good relationship with their mentor, mentoring by undergraduate or graduate students can be an effective method of modeling pro-social behavior. Of course, this is from a pilot study that bear replication with a larger data set.

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