These three factors influence mentor-mentee relationship quality

Kern, L., Harrison, J., Custer, B., & Mehta, P. (2019). Factors That Enhance the Quality of Relationships Between Mentors and Mentees During Check & Connect. Behavioral Disorders, 44(3), 148-161.

Summarized by Karina DeAndrade

Notes of InterestThis study examined methods to mitigate school dropout and increase student engagement by looking to promote feelings of connectedness and a sense of belonging through successful mentoring relationships. These authors therefore looked at how mentees viewed their relationships with their mentors, seeking to determine what makes a high quality mentoring relationship, and what factors influence the success of the match. Factors examined were topics discussed, demographic match, and the perceived quality of the relationship as regularly assessed by both mentors and mentees.

This study was conducted over the course of two-years in multiple states consisting of high school youth and mentors from the ages of 21-65 (final n=166). Ultimately, this work lends support to the idea that demographic matching doesn’t significantly predict relationship quality, and that relationship satisfaction is predicted by discussing school and future plans, but not by discussing friends and family. These findings indicate that mentees were eager to see their mentors and enjoyed getting to talk to them. The authors suggest that mentoring relationships on the whole should be much more widely available to individuals that are at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders, and that mentoring should be flexible in response to the the specific needs of mentor and mentee alike.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

School engagement is an important predictor of graduation. One strategy to enhance student engagement is mentoring. Check & Connect is a structured mentoring program that has resulted in favorable outcomes for many students, including those with emotional and behavioral disorders. Effectiveness, however, depends on the quality of the mentor– mentee relationship. Although research has examined factors that increase relationship effectiveness, findings have been inconsistent. We explored the perceptions and correspondence of 166 high school students (i.e., mentees) with social, emotional, and/or behavioral challenges and their mentors about the mentoring relationship and variables that contribute to relationship quality. Results indicated that mentors and mentees rated the relationship favorably and their ratings correlated moderately. Mentor and mentee variables examined (gender, ethnicity/race, age) were not significant predictors of relationship quality; however, specific topics discussed during mentoring sessions for mentors (family, friends) and mentees (school, future plans) were significantly related to their perceptions of relationship quality

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Descriptive data from the current study indicated that both mentors and mentees rated all aspects of the relationship favorably. This is consistent with previous research that identified positive effects of mentoring (e.g., Sinclair et al., 1998). The predominantly affirmative mentor and mentor ratings might also reflect the risk population in the current sample. Specifically, DuBois et al. (2002) found greater effect sizes for studies with at risk or disadvantaged participants.

Interestingly, mentees’ responses to two matched questions (excited to meet with me/look forward to meeting, receptive to help/could ask for help) indicated they judged the relationship to be significantly higher quality than the mentors perceived their mentees would. This could be because mentors did not recognize the importance of the relationship to their mentees and/or that mentees may not have expressed how much they valued their experience. Furthermore, whereas 95% of the mentees liked weekly meetings, 18.8% desired more frequent meetings. This suggests that increasing the frequency of meetings may have been of further benefit to at least some of the mentees. In addition, 92.9% of mentees indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that they looked forward to meeting, whereas 78.5% of mentors agreed or strongly agreed. It is possible this difference could be attributed to the mentors finding mentoring burdensome at times, as it was a task in addition to their required activities. In fact, several studies have used outside mentors whose responsibility is solely to mentor students (e.g., Maynard et al., 2013; Sinclair et al., 1998; Sinclair et al., 2005). This arrangement might address student needs while reducing the burden on school staff.

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