The practice of rematching in youth mentoring: A study of planned rematches in school-based mentoring for children identified as aggressive

Mutignani, L. M., Steggerda, J. C., Scafe, M. J., Vengurlekar, I. N., & Cavell, T. A. (2024). The practice of rematching in youth mentoring: A study of planned rematches in school-based mentoring for children identified as aggressive. Children and Youth Services Review, 128.


Premature match endings are common, occurring in 22-50% of matches. This raises the question of whether youth should be rematched with a new mentor after an unsuccessful first match. Previous research on rematching after unplanned, premature endings has yielded mixed findings, with some studies suggesting rematching may be detrimental, while others found match quality, rather than rematch status, predicted outcomes.

The current study extends this literature by examining planned rematches that occur uniformly at the end of each program cycle, rather than after premature, unplanned endings. Specifically, the authors investigated a school-based mentoring program for aggressive children spanning three semesters, with all matches closed and rematched at the end of each semester.

The authors identified two groups of matches based on ratings of relationship support and conflict after the first semester: 1) “poor first matches” rated below average on support or above average on conflict by both mentor and mentee, and 2) “comparison matches” not meeting those criteria. They compared these groups on subsequent relationship ratings and post-mentoring outcomes to assess whether a poor first match negatively impacted future matches or gains from the program.


The study included 86 mentor-mentee dyads from a larger prevention trial of school-based mentoring for aggressive 2nd and 3rd graders. Mentees (55% boys; 30% White, 36.7% Black, 23.3% Latinx) were identified as aggressive based on teacher ratings and peer nominations. Mentors were college students (68.3% female, 78.3% White).

The mentoring program used planned endings and rematches across three semesters. Mentors met with mentees twice weekly for 30 minutes during school lunch periods. Mentors received 90 minutes of training. Mentors and mentees completed measures at the end of each semester.


– Mentor Alliance Scale assessed mentor and mentee ratings of relationship support
– Network of Relationships Inventory assessed match conflict
– Child Behavior Checklist and Teacher Report Form assessed child externalizing problems
– Network of Relationships Inventory assessed child-rated teacher-student relationship quality
– Revised Class Play assessed peer-nominated aggression


The authors first classified 20 matches (23.4%) as “poor first matches” and 40 (46.5%) as “comparison matches” based on semester 1 ratings. These groups did not differ on demographics or baseline outcomes.

Comparing the two groups, mentees in poor first matches rated their semester 2 mentors as less supportive than comparison matches. However, this difference was not present in semester 3. There were no other significant differences in mentor or mentee ratings of support or conflict in semesters 2 or 3.

Additionally, the two groups did not differ significantly on any of the post-mentoring outcomes (externalizing problems, teacher-student relationship quality, peer-nominated aggression).


The authors interpret their findings as providing “preliminary support for the use of planned endings followed by scheduled rematches The lack of differences on most relationship ratings and outcomes suggests that a poor first match did not necessarily doom subsequent matches or prevent positive gains from the mentoring program overall.

However, the authors note the one exception – mentees from poor first matches did rate their semester 2 mentors as less supportive. They posit this could reflect a bias or difficulty connecting after the poor first experience. Nonetheless, this effect did not persist into semester 3 or impact other outcomes.

The authors discuss limitations including the small sample, unique nature of the Lunch Buddy program, and primarily White, female mentors matched with boys of color. They call for further research on both planned and unplanned rematching practices.

Overall, the authors conclude that their “findings provide preliminary support for the use of planned endings followed by scheduled rematches and broadens our understanding of the potential role of rematching in youth mentoring” .

The study highlights the complex issue of premature match endings and rematching in youth mentoring. By examining a program with uniform, planned rematches, it offers a unique perspective suggesting rematching may not be as detrimental as previously thought, at least in certain structured program contexts. The authors appropriately note the study’s limitations and the need for additional research to better understand best practices around rematching.