What do my parents think of my mentor?: How parental approval of matches impact mentorship strength & duration

Shamblen, S. R., Courser, M. W., Schweinhart, A. M., & Thompson, K. (2020). If momma ain’t happy with the mentoring relationship, ain’t nobody happy with the mentoring relationship: Parental satisfaction as a predictor of mentoring match strength and length. Journal of Community Psychology, 48(3), 879–890. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22304

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Although there is evidence that shows how perceived match relationship affects match strength and length, there is limited research on the impact parental involvement and perceptions on their child’s match have on mentoring relationships. 
  • This study examines how parents’ approval of matched mentoring relationships affects the strength and duration of their child’s mentorship. 
  • Parents’ and guardians’ disapproval of their child’s match is the only notable predictor of match termination.
  • Parents’/guardians’ approval of their child’s mentoring relationship is a strong predictor of the strength of the mentor-mentee match. 
  • Mentoring programs not only need to assist parents/guardians in understanding their [the parents’/guardians’] roles within the matches, but they also account for parents’/guardians’ perceptions.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract) 

Much evidence exists on whether an individual’s perception of a match relationship impacts match strength and length, but relatively less is known about whether parental perceptions of the match (i.e., whether the match is meeting their goals) impacts the length and strength of mentoring relationships. These relationships were examined in a sample of 350 newly formed youth–mentor matches who completed multiple measures of match strength and satisfaction with the match. Parents/guardians were also surveyed about their level of satisfaction with the match. The primary finding of this paper was that parent/guardian dissatisfaction with the match relationships meeting goals was the only significant predictor of a higher likelihood of match closure. Although youth and mentor self-reports of satisfaction with how match time was spent were the strongest predictors of volunteer and youth match strength ratings, parent/guardian satisfaction with the match relationship also remained a strong predictor of match strength. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Previous research in this area has focused primarily on parent/guardian roles in mentoring relationships, mechanisms by which parent/guardian involvement can support or hinder the development of strong mentor–mentee relationships, and motivations for parents/guardian involvement in mentoring relationships. This study goes beyond previous work by providing quantitative evidence from two types of mentoring programs that parent/guardian, volunteer, and youth satisfaction with mentoring relationships impact both match strength and match length. In keeping with previous research, volunteer reports of match satisfaction (quality time) ratings were the strongest predictor of volunteer SOR ratings and youth reports of satisfaction (quality time) were the strongest predictor of youth SOR ratings. As noted above, we found that parent/guardian satisfaction (goals) with the match influences both youth and volunteer match strength ratings and that parental satisfaction (goals) with the match was the only predictor that was significantly related to match length. Taken together, these findings indicate that parental satisfaction with the match has a strong influence on match strength and length. These findings are important both for the research community and for mentoring programs.

These findings clearly suggest that if matches are to last and have an impact on youth, it is important to manage parent’s expectations for the match. Adding to the findings of Basualdo-Delmonico and Spencer (2016) that parent and mentor expectations must be communicated and made clear, our findings suggest that parents who believe the match is not meeting their expectations may lead to diminished match strength (as indicated by both youth and volunteers) and a greater likelihood of a match closing prematurely. Our findings suggest not only that mentoring programs should focus on engaging and providing guidance to parents on their role in the match, but also that program staff should work to monitor and understand parent/guardian satisfaction with match relationships, keeping in mind the parental point of view. For many mentoring programs, this represents a need for significant change in their operational practices. Although additional research is needed to investigate mechanisms on how parent/guardian factors can best be integrated into program practices, mentoring programs can begin by focusing on candid and frequent communication between volunteers and parents about whether the match is meeting parent goals for the match, as well as whether program staff and the volunteer realistically believes those parent/guardian goals can be achieved through a mentoring relationship. These discussions could also work to overcome potential differences between parental and mentor expectations and value systems if mentoring programs can approach the conversations from a parental perspective and with cultural competency.

Interestingly, we found no differences between community-based matches and site-based matches on any of the outcomes examined. Although it could be hypothesized that community-based matches would be less likely to succeed due to environmental factors and less volunteerism, this was not the case in our study. Moreover, although mentors and youth were of disparate backgrounds and mentors had relatively little experience with mentoring, the matches in this study were above average in length (16 months on average). This finding is especially interesting given recent evidence that mentors and youth who are more similar in the background are more likely to have longer mentoring relationships (Christensen, Raposa, Hagler, Erickson, & Rhodes, 2019). Moreover, none of our 41 background characteristics had significant relationships with relationship satisfaction. Although some have found that similar ethnic and demographic characteristics lead to greater mentoring success, the literature also shows that it is relationship quality that primarily determines match success and not extraneous factors such as demographic characteristics and our findings support this.

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