Using TRICS model to help build mentor-mentee relationships

Donlan, A. E., McDermott, E. R., Zaff, J. F. (2017). Building relationships between mentors and youth: Development of the TRICS model. Children and Youth Services Review.

Summarized by Karina DeAndrade


Notes of Interest: In this qualitative study, researchers used a model called TRICS to understand how relationships are formed between mentors and mentees. Specifically, this study examined data from about 71 low-income African-American who participated. Findings suggest that while more research needs to be done, this model helps mentors and mentees build a deeper and stronger bond and have a more positive experience.


Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Although previous research identifies high quality relationships between mentors and youth as fundamental to mentorship program success, less is known about how these relationships develop, particularly within group-mentoring models. Therefore, using a qualitative, grounded theory approach, this study explores the process of relationship building between mentors and adolescents. We conducted nine focus groups over two rounds of data collection with youth and staff in a youth development program that predominantly serves African American, low-income youth with a group-mentoring model (n = 71). Using open-coding we identified five key features of the process of relationship building: The Right Who, Respect, Information gathering, Consistency, and Support (TRICS). We used axial-coding to construct a model of the associations among these features. Participants reported that these features promote trust and positive youth development. Model development and sub-categories are described.


Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

We used a grounded theory approach to explore the phenomenon of relationship building between mentors and adolescents in a youth development program. The focus groups allowed for an exploratory approach to understanding this process, and we were able to gain knowledge from the informal cross-talk of participants as well as from their direct answers to our questions (Kitzinger, 1995). Furthermore, the second round of focus groups allowed participants to correct, refine, and expand upon our interpretations. This process allowed participants to respond to information presented in other focus groups and to refine our interpretations of statements from each group to be more representative of YDP as a whole. Based on our conversations with adults and youth, we developed the TRICS model of relationship building, which consists of The Right Who, Respect, Information Gathering, Consistency, and Support. These emergent findings are a critical step in understanding what practitioners and researchers can do to create meaningful, high quality mentoring relationships with youth.

Although the TRICS model presents an important step, it is likely that further study will reveal more strategies and practices that can foster relationship building than are identified in our analysis. For example, the mentors in our study were paid, full-time staff. Research on building relationships with volunteer, part-time staff may yield different results (Lakind et al., 2014). Finally, although participants discussed the benefits of relationships to youth outcomes, future research is needed to understand whether and to what extent these elements of relationship building – and the relationships themselves – impact positive developmental outcomes


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