Although mentoring in various forms has been studied for many years, our understanding of how effective mentoring is, and how it is and is not effective remains at an early stage. What we do know has resulted almost exclusively from community-based studies rather than school-based programs. Yet mentoring is increasingly practiced in schools (often for logistical and legal reasons). There is, however, virtually no outcome research on the effectiveness of school-based mentoring. A critical next step in research on mentoring is to replicate and cross-validate findings from community-based studies with research on school-based mentoring programs.
It is hypothesized that the effects of school-based mentoring on academic, social, and attitudinal indices of youth development will be similar to those found in community-based mentoring. These main effects are expected to be moderated by whether or not mentees find their mentors to be significant in their lives; but different effects for same-ethnicity matches and different-ethnicity matches are not expected.
Multiple analyses of covariance (MANCOVA) will be used to conduct pre- and post-test comparisons of the relative changes in the indices of youth development: connectedness, academic success (grades, attendance, and behavior problems), and self-esteem as reported by parents, teachers and the youth themselves. Initial behavior ratings provided by parents will be used as covariates in the three MANCOVAs. Two bivariate interaction terms will be included to examine impact of mentor significance and mentor ethnicity.
Recent research by DuBois and colleagues reveals that mentoring can be ineffective or very effective, depending in part on the presence of certain program and relationship processes and on whether or not mentees’ come to see their mentors as significant adults in their lives (DuBois, Holloway et al., 2002; DuBois, Neville et al., 2002). Although mentoring is becoming a primary approach to youth development in the U.S., there is insufficient understanding about the processes and outcomes of youth mentoring to conclude with confidence that we know how, when, and why mentors become significant in the lives of their mentees.
Self psychology provides a theory to test the way in which mentoring, as a transforming relational experience, can effect changes in self-esteem, connectedness, and academic success. Effective mentoring (i.e., transformative mentoring interactions), from the perspective of self-psychology, will provide two sets of experiences to the mentee. First, mentors who provide empathy, praise, and attention will promote positive changes in mentees’ experience of social support and increased feelings that they matter to their mentors. Second, mentors who are consistent, structure positive activities and conversations, and present mentees with realistic goals and expectations will find that their mentees value them (see them as significant), experience increased connectedness with parents and teachers, and develop more positive attitudes towards school and their futures, as well as increases in self-esteem and academic success.
Based on self psychology theory (Kohut, 1977) and the evidence from prior research, I will test the hypothesis that there is a developmental sequence from (a) being matched, (b) feeling valued and cared for, (c) reciprocating these feelings by valuing the mentor, and (d) perceiving a more supportive social network of adults that leads to positive changes, such as better school attendance, conduct, and achievement as well as improved self-esteem and connectedness.
To test the sequence of experiences described by self psychology theory, a structural model will be created in which particular mentee experiences are hypothesized to predict mentors’ significance. The model also tests the hypothesis that the effect of mentors’ significance on changes in connectedness, academic indices, and self-esteem will be mediated by enhanced perceptions by mentees of their social support. This model will be able to test the importance of mentor significance and of increased social support in the overall effectiveness of mentoring for mentees.
What types of mentor-mentee interactions and mentor motivations best (a) predict changes in mentees’ self esteem, connectedness, and social support (as well as in grades, attendance, and behavioral conduct at school); and (b) lead mentors to be experienced as significant adults in mentees’ lives?
Using structural equations modeling, I will test two hybrid structural models (i.e., including latent factors and measured variables) that attempt to predict mentees’ experience from mentoring activities and mentors’ motivations. The first model predicts mentees’ experience and mentors’ significance from mentors’ motivations and initial social support. The second predicts mentees’ experience and mentors’ significance from prescriptive and developmental activities. By examining indirect pathways of influence, more complex hypotheses can be tested. The types of mentee experiences that result from prescriptive and developmental activities can be tested for their indirect effects on the degree to which a mentor comes to be viewed as a significant adult by his or her mentee. These models also will further reveal the degree to which the effects of different activities are mediated by the mentee’s experience of the mentor as empathy, attentive, and understanding as well as consistent, structuring, and challenging.
It is likely that we have not included all of the factors that contribute to effective and sustained mentoring relationships, in part because most of the research literature has focused on community mentoring. Therefore, qualitative analyses will be employed during the third year to try to identify other factors. These factors will be explored qualitatively and then quantitatively.
Focus groups will be gathered to help identify those factors (e.g., experiences, expectations, interpersonal qualities) that participants felt contributed to their sustained or terminated mentoring relationships. Ten focus groups, each conducted by two researchers (likely one Graduate Assistants and the PI), will include two types of individuals: (a) four groups of ten will include those whose relationships terminated prematurely, and (b) six groups of ten will include those individuals who continued mentoring beyond the first year. Grounded theory data collection and analysis procedures will be used to identify themes and factors related to positive and negative experiences and to sustained mentoring relationships. These factors then will be organized into a survey we will develop to collect retrospective data. Subsequent collection of data from mentors and mentees will allow us to test to what degree retrospective accounts of these factors predict measured outcomes and changes for the larger group of mentors and mentees (using hierarchical regression) as well as to predict length of mentoring relationship based on these factors (using logistic regression). We will compare those who terminated early to those who completed the one-year commitment, and compare those who completed just one year to those who decided to continue the match for a second year.