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Research Design

Research Design

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There are three designs underlying the four studies. Study one is an experimental field study. In study one, youth with mentors will be compared (a) to youth who receive traditional outreach services (e.g., counseling, tutoring, enrichment activities) and (b) to youth who receive no services. Grades, a behavior rating scale, and scores on pre-test social support survey will be used as covariates to control for preexisting between group differences. This randomized design will illuminate the relative effects of mentoring on mentees. Youth who participate in the mentoring program for only one year will be followed during the second year to estimate the long-term effects of one year of mentoring. Also in study one the effects of being a mentor will be tested.

Studies two and three are descriptive field studies using structural equation modeling. In study two, a hybrid structural model (that is, one including both measured and latent variables) will be used to test a theoretical model that suggests that there are three mediators of effective mentoring: (1) mentees’ experience, (2) feeling as if they matter to mentors whom they view as significant in their lives, and (3) increased social support. In study three, qualities of the mentors (e.g., motivations and own social support) and types of mentor-mentee interactions (e.g., discussion of social issues, focus on academic tasks, recreational play)--that cannot be experimentally controlled or randomized--will be explored to explain the mentee’s experience of the mentoring relationship and the likelihood that mentees identify their mentors as significant people in their lives.

Study four will use an integrated qualitative-quantitative approach. The first part of study four will use an exploratory approach guided by the grounded theory procedures described by Strauss and Corbin. Once general themes and factors have been identified, these will be further examined through focused qualitative case studies and by collecting data retrospectively from mentors and mentees to predict outcomes from these newly identified factors.

Mentees. This study will be conducted in 16 schools in South Texas with six hundred youth (300 mentees; 200 youth receiving other social services, and 200 comparison youth receiving no services). The study will focus in large part on Hispanic youth in grades 5 through 12. Youth will be referred to a CIS site program coordinator, who will provide these lists to CIS “cluster leaders” who will randomly assign youth to mentoring or no-mentoring groups. A no-treatment control group of youth also will be included. This will create three participant groups: (1) youth who have not been referred for services (control group); (2) youth who may benefit from mentoring, do receive other social services in school, but are not assigned a mentor, and (3) youth who may benefit from and do indeed receive a mentor through CIS.

Mentors. Up to two hundred mentors will be recruited for participation in the study each year. We hope to include a wide variety of mentors, specifically targeting those most likely to mentor in schools, such as adults from Big Brother / Big Sister, AmeriCorps, church / civic groups, local businesses, and colleges. Based on the pilot study sample, these mentors will range in age from eighteen to sixty-five, and about half will be Hispanic. Mentors will be asked to commit to working with a youth for the academic year (7 months) and to complete a brief checklist each week and a survey packet three times each year. Mentors will be provided initial and ongoing training and support for their work.

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