What factors are associated with successful mentor matching? New intervention study on youth violence has answers!

Lennon, T., Cheng, T., Johnson, S. L., Jones, V., Fein, J., & Ryan, L. M. (2021). Factors associated with successful mentor matching in an intervention study of youth violence. Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22503

Summarized by Ariel Ervin 

Notes of Interest: 

  • Although scholars have found variables that significantly correlate with the length of shared likes/dislikes with mentoring dyads and the length of mentoring relationships, they still do not know much about which variables affect the mentoring matching process.
  • Using the findings from a trial of a violence prevention program for youth getting medically treated for peer fight-related injuries this study explores the differences between adolescents in matched mentoring relationships and adolescents in unmatched mentoring relationships in a trial of a violence prevention program for youth getting medically treated for peer fight-related injuries.
  • Youths’ perceptions about the seriousness of their injuries correlate with higher rates of getting matched with a mentor.
  • Future violence prevention programs need to account for the role youth perception has in intervention completion.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

One challenge of conducting intervention studies is ensuring that study participants are exposed to the intervention. For example, in our randomized controlled trial of Take Charge!, a mentor-implemented and research-informed violence prevention program that partners with one-on-one community-based mentoring agencies, only 50% of intervention youth with fight-related injuries were successfully matched with a mentor. We examined the differences between matched (n = 49) and unmatched (n = 49) youth with regard to demographics, time from injury to study enrollment, perceived seriousness of injury, belief that future injury can be avoided, and household chaos. Youth who were successfully matched with a mentor were more likely to perceive the injury as very serious or somewhat serious compared with unmatched youth (95.9% vs. 79.6%, p = .028). All other factors were not significantly associated with successful mentor matching. Future violence prevention interventions should consider youth perceptions as a factor that may influence the completion of desired interventions.

Implications (Reprinted from the Conclusion)

In our study population, as part of a randomized intervention trial, assault-injured youths’ perception of the seriousness of their injury was associated with a higher rate of mentor matching. Given that previous childhood drug research studies have shown that perceived personal health benefit is a main motivating factor for youth participation (Tromp et al., 2016), it is possible that youth perceived the mentoring intervention as a way of preventing future serious injury, and therefore a personal health benefit. Prior studies also demonstrate that greater youth effort and motivation may lead to increased rates of study participation (Brennan et al., 2012). This study had several limitations including small sample size, possible recall, and social desirability biases inherent to the use of self-report for survey responses, the potential for variation in mentor match processes at the level of the mentoring agency, and lack of data on mentor characteristics. Future violence prevention interventions should consider youth perceptions as a factor that may influence the successful completion of desired interventions.

In general, conducting intervention-based research in adolescents is difficult as many adolescent participants, such as in our Take Charge! evaluation, are not fully exposed to the intervention. Previous research has shown that adolescents are the least likely to participate in research (Nelson et al., 2015) with reasons such as lack of time commitment and the long interval between expressing interest and research follow-up (Barratt et al., 2013). In addition, African American adolescents may be less likely to participate in research due to concern for stigma (Breland-Noble et al., 2011). Our study gives additional insight into conducting studies in this population and demonstrates a need for new approaches to engage adolescents, specific approaches that consider youth perceptions in the engagement strategy.

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