The Value of Hope in Youth Mentoring

Sulimani-Aidan, Y., Melkman, E., & Hellman, C. M. (2019). Nurturing the hope of youth in care: The contribution of mentoring. The American journal of orthopsychiatry, 89(2), 134–143.

Summarized by Maggie Bayly

Notes of Interest:

  • Hope (or hopeful thinking) is viewed as an aid in identifying pathways to achieving goals and overcoming challenges in everyday life.
    • Past research has found significant positive outcomes in higher levels of hope among individuals including higher academic achievement and well-being. It also has similar positive outcomes such as higher confidence and an increased likelihood of engaging in the community.
  • Past studies have proved that mentoring has improved the cognitive and social development of youth because mentors act by providing guidance in discovering one’s identity and future.
  • There is little to no research that focuses on levels of hope of youth in care with an emphasis on mentoring.
  • Using Snyder’s hope theory (1994), this study investigates the impact of mentoring on the level of hope of youth in care.
  • Results found that there is a positive relationship between hope and a mentor relationship, most importantly, the length.
    • Mentoring relationships play a significant role in developing hope for youth in care.
    • Parents with a lower level of education were correlated with decreased hope.
  • While the role of a mentor furthers energy towards achieving goals, it doesn’t necessarily lead to creating pathways.
  • Mentors play an important role in helping individuals develop autonomy and independence.
  • Foster placements and residential care facilities should seek a more concentrated focus on the training of mentors that emphasizes hope and independence.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Hope has long been viewed as important to individuals attempting to overcome obstacles. Overall hope is the combination of one’s appraisal of capability and determination to achieve goals (Agency) and identifying viable routes to reach them (Pathway) (Snyder, 1994). The main goal of this study was to examine the incremental contribution of mentoring to hope among youth on the verge of leaving care above and beyond related personal characteristics and placement history. The sample included 148 adolescents in residential care in Israel who had adult mentors (ages 16-19). Results showed that lower levels of parental education and being in a welfare residential placement were associated with decreased levels of hope. Mentoring length and various mentoring functions (“role model,” “parental figure,” and “independence promoter”) were found to have a significant contribution to the prediction of hope above and beyond associated individual and placement variables. Based upon these findings, residential care leaders should recruit and select mentors for longevity, and train mentors to serve as role models and parental figures who focus on independent living in order to influence hope among youth who are about to leave care.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The existing body of literature on youth leaving care has focused on the individual characteristics and placement characteristics that contribute to resilience and well-being. The present study had two aims that extend existing knowledge. First, we explored the relationship between youths’ individual and placement characteristics and hope. Next, we examined the incremental contribution of mentoring to hope over and beyond related individual and placement characteristics. Of the individual characteristics, parents’ level of education of the parents (as determined by the mothers’ level of education) emerged as a prominent predictor of hope. Youth whose mother had lower levels of education were also likely to have lower levels of both agency and pathways hopeful thinking. This is in line with previous findings that have highlighted the central role parents’ education and socioeconomic status play in determining their childrens’ motivation to pursue goals as well as their ability to develop specific strategies to reach these goals (Snyder et al., 1997). As youth in care typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds, these capacities are hence likely to be hindered, unless they receive proper support from caretakers and other caring adults who will believe in them and show them how to attain what it is they aspire for. In particular need of such assistance are youths in welfare residential settings who were found to be more vulnerable in this respect, compared to youths in foster care.

In fact, hope theory suggests that the capacity for hope is learned mainly through a supportive and empathic relationship with an adult (Snyder, 1994). We assumed that youth’s relationships with a meaningful mentor, which can compensate for relationships with parents lacking in attachment or provision of necessary resources, would be beneficial for the youths’ sense of hope. Our results supported this assumption, as we found significant positive associations between hope and the length of the mentoring relationship as well as the degree to which this relationship provided autonomy, warmth, or modeling.

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