What predicts mentoring relationship quality? An investigation from the perspective of mentees and their parents

De Wit, D. J., DuBois, D. L., Erdem, G., Larose, S., & Lipman, E. L. (2020). Predictors of mentoring relationship quality: Investigation from the perspectives of youth and parent participants in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada one-to-one mentoring programs. Journal of Community Psychology, 48(2), 192–208. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22244

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Mentoring relationship quality (MRQ) is known for promoting a sense of belonging, mutual trust, and other positive youth outcomes.
  • Although MRQ plays an important role in mediating the benefits of youth engagement in mentoring programs, not much is known about the factors that contribute to this.
  • This study examines data from a national survey of Canadian Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) to determine what predicts MRQ.
  • Minimal match determination issues and longer relationships were associated with MRG.
  • Higher MRQ also correlated with youths’ perceived shared qualities and characteristics with their mentors, perceived mentor support and emotional engagement, and parent reports of a high-quality relationship with the adult mentor.
  • Programs need to acknowledge the value of approaches that seek stronger mentor-mentee compatibility.
    • For instance, programs can develop special training modules that assist mentors with figuring out goals, values, and interests that overlap with their mentees.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)


This study examined predictors of mentoring relationship quality (MRQ) as reported by youth and parents participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Canada one-to-one mentoring programs.


Mentoring program capacity and other external supports, youth personal and environmental risk, youth and parent attitudes and motives, and mentoring relationship processes and attributes were examined as predictors of MRQ at 18 months following youth referral to the program using data from a longitudinal study of the Canadian BBBS mentoring programs.


For youth (n = 335), significant predictors of MRQ included: minimal difficulties pairing youth and mentors, perceptions of shared attributes with their mentor, mentor emotional engagement and support, and longer relationships. For parents (n = 356) higher MRQ was correlated with parent report of minimal difficulties pairing youth and mentors, a high-quality relationship with the youth’s mentor, and longer relationships.


Implications for program and policy development are discussed.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This study examined theoretically important correlates of mentoring relationship global quality in samples of mentored youth and their parents enrolled in one-to-one BBBS community programs. The final models for youth and parents revealed that longer relationships and few or minimal match determination difficulties were positively correlated with MRQ. Higher MRQ was also associated with youth perceptions of mentor emotional engagement and support, youth perceptions of shared qualities and traits with their mentor and parent reports of a high-quality interpersonal relationship with the adult mentor.

Youth perceptions of emotional engagement and support from adult mentors emerged as a statistically significant positive correlate of MRQ. In contrast, weak relationships occurred for instrumental engagement and support. One plausible explanation for this disparity is that youth who reported high levels of emotional engagement were paired with mentors who adopted a developmental approach to mentoring that focus on building a strong emotional connection by responding flexibly to their needs and interests and creating an atmosphere of mutual trust that encouraged disclosure of personal and emotional issues. In contrast, youth who perceived higher levels of instrumental support may have been paired to mentors who placed a great deal of emphasis on learning a new skill or setting goals. Although empirical evidence supports the benefits of providing mentored youth a balance of both emotional and instrumental support (Lyons, McQuillin, & Henderson, 2018), mentor commitment to instrumental activities may be influence relationship quality negatively if it does not elicit youth input.

Neither relatively frequent weekly contact nor a larger number of different mentoring activities was associated with greater MRQ as perceived by informants. These findings underscore the notion that while elevated amounts of contact may permit greater opportunities for the provision of support in the mentoring relationship, it is the meaning and significance attached to that support by youth that is critical in shaping perceptions of MRQ. Longer mentoring relationships were associated with higher ratings of MRQ supporting Keller’s assumption that fundamental aspects of the mentoring relationship (i.e., self-disclosure of personal feelings, trust, affection) do not become firmly entrenched or solidified until the growth and maintenance phase of relationship development is reached, a process that may take months to complete (Keller, 2005).

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