What makes an effective youth mentoring relationship?: An ecological framework

Chan, C. C. & Ho, W. C. (2018). An ecological framework for evaluating relationship-functional aspects of youth mentoring. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38(4), 837–867. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2008.00329.x

Summarized by Maggie Bayly

Notes of Interest:

  • There has been a recent increase in the use of mentoring programs as a preventative strategy, such as youth violence.
  • A majority of young adults and adolescents who participate in these programs are more likely to receive better developmental outcomes, such as increased positive relationships with adults and higher academic achievement.
  • A way of understanding a youth mentoring program is thinking of it as a microsystem, recognizing its importance as a mediator of interactions with the environment through super and suprapersonal factors.
  • This study examines the effectiveness of mentoring relationships between adolescents and adults.
    • Additionally, this study used Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model to create a framework to better understand efficient mentorships.
  • Adolescent youths benefit the most when their school has its own mentor program or reinforces the idea of mentoring.
  • The paradigm of a microsystem has three elements: activity, role, and relationship. These can have a positive or negative influence depending on environmental settings and personal factors.
  • What makes a mentoring program effective are the factors that lead to unequal commitment and or conflict between a mentee and mentor.
  • Factors that make these mentor-mentee relationships asymmetrical should be used in future research.
  • The most effective way of mentoring is assuring a low level of asymmetry that includes an environment that encourages proper roles, activities, and settings

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

The present research examined what is necessary to make youth mentoring effective. Central to the discussion is mentee–mentor relationship quality in relation to program effectiveness. Data were drawn from an ongoing youth mentoring program organized in Hong Kong using a conceptual framework derived from ecological psychology to guide analysis. Data analysis followed a multistage process. Quantitative factor analysis was computed to identify the principal components of the mentee–mentor relationship. Then, to explore subjective meanings of the quantitative findings, in-depth interviews were conducted with 48 mentees who were randomly selected from the respondents. Further statistical associations and qualitative categorizations were conducted with this subsample to examine the complex relations between the relationship outcomes and the program (functional) outcomes.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This study utilized Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model as a backbone to develop a framework for understanding effective mentoring. The analyses reveal some insights about what makes youth mentoring effective at the personal level in this specific program. For example, unlike previous studies conducted in the United States, married mentors with children are found to be more likely to produce effective mentoring. Moreover, no personal attributes of the mentee are related to the program’s effectiveness. As noted earlier, these personallevel characteristics cannot be controlled or changed easily in actual program implementation. More amenable to program planning and mentors’ training and supervision, however, are the leverage points of the microsystem identified at the environmental level.

The relationship-functional perspective argues that interrelationship between a close mentee–mentor relationship and effective mentoring is problematic. It is true that perceived relationship quality remains an essential component of the mentoring program, but what affects program effectiveness is not the perceived intimacy and closeness of the mentee and the mentor, but the factors that lead to the unequal commitment, or even conflict, between the two parties. The four themes identified previously, which explain what makes mentoring relationships asymmetrical, should be able to inform prospective program organizers of what matters in developing and implementing mentoring programs. Moreover, the perspective also suggests that mentees engaged in a relationship with a low level of asymmetry must be provided with an environment that facilitates appropriate roles, activities, and physical settings to make effective mentoring possible.

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