Youth Mentoring Research - why mentoring can work

Youth Mentoring in a post-pandemic world

As I read of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic it becomes abundantly clear how important youth mentoring will be in the months and years ahead. So many young people have had dreams shattered by the pandemic, are expressing signs of high anxiety as a result of lockdowns, not being able to attend school and be with their friends, and having been isolated for lengthy periods of time, something made even more challenging within a family that is not functioning too well.

There is a great deal of research showing the power of mentoring in well run programs which include the appropriate training of volunteer adult mentors prior to entering into a meaningful relationship with their mentees. 

What mentoring research says about the power of mentoring?

The Delawere Mentoring Council highlights some key results of mentoring research on their website.

Research proves that mentoring works. In 2004, a Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America found that of the young people with mentors:

  • 78 percent showed improved self-confidence
  • 67 percent were better able to make decisions
  • 65 percent were better able to express their feelings
  • 52 percent were less likely than their peers to skip a day of school
  • 46 percent were less likely to start using illegal drugs
  • 27 percent were less likely to start drinking alcohol

Teachers reported behavior changes in students who had mentors, as found in Creative Mentoring’s Annual Report of the 2004 – 2005 school year. Of those students:

  • 81 percent increased their self-confidence
  • 68 percent think more before acting
  • 61 percent improved their ability to relate to adults
  • 67 percent were better able to express their feelings
  • 62 percent demonstrated better cooperation
  • 56 percent improved in reading
  • 56 percent became more responsible
  • 63 percent improved their attitude toward learning
  • 60 percent participated more frequently in class

Parents reported behavioral improvements in their children who had mentors as well. Parents stated their children had:

  • 88 percent increased their self-confidence
  • 85 percent demonstrated better cooperation
  • 72 percent increased reading skills
  • 75 percent increased their attitude toward learning
  • 78 percent became more responsible
  • 74 percent improved in language arts
  • 74 percent were better able to follow directions
  • 71 percent participated more in class
  • 79 percent were better able to express their feelings

Copyright: Delaware Mentoring Council

What Mentors Say About The Mentoring Experience

Some findings from the Commonwealth Fund 1998 survey of 1504 adults who mentored youths aged 10 to 18 during the previous 5 years:

  • mentors believe they have been particularly successful in helping youths overcome such problems as having negative feelings about themselves, skipping school and poor grades
  • 84% of mentors say they are likely to mentor again
  • mentoring is even more successful when the relationship endures at least two years and when the mentor engages on a wide range of activities and offers guidance for the young person

Compare the positive results of two-year programs with shorter-term programs:

  • negative feelings about themselves 55% vs 45%
  • hanging out with the wrong crowd 42% vs 27%
  • poor relationships with the family 34% vs 20%
  • poor grades 42% vs 34%
  • getting into trouble at school 41% vs 31%
  • greater success in helping to prevent problems with smoking, drinking and drug use 38% vs 27%

Leading activities reported by the majority of mentors include:

  • 83% teaching social skills
  • 75% standing up for the youth when in trouble
  • 71% providing social or cultural experiences
  • 68% exposing the youth to the mentor’s own work
  • 62% career introductions
  • 54% teaching job-related skills
  • 49% spend a lot of time talking with the young person about personal problems or issues
  • 43% of mentors say that they are motivated by a desire to help and work with youth; they acknowledge that so many young people need help
  • 83% of mentors say they learned or gained something through the experience of being a mentor, including feeling that they were a better person, increased patience, friendship, a feeling of effectiveness, developing new skills (such as listening and working with people)

Problems mentors experienced:

  • 43% – time commitment and peer pressure on the youth
  • young people in extremely difficult circumstances also benefit from having a mentor 50 years of age or older, more frequent telephone contact with the mentor, and having the mentor provide networking opportunities
  • formal mentors who receive training (about 16 hours) are much more likely to talk frequently with the mentee about his or her personal problems – 52% vs 32%
  • mentors regard the following as the most important characteristics of a mentor:
    • understanding and patience (22%)
    • being a good listener (22%)
  • 77% of mentors never or hardly ever cancel a scheduled meeting with their mentees. This commitment is reciprocated by the mentee: nearly 73% of mentees never or hardly ever cancelled their meeting with their mentor.
  • mentors believe mentoring works, that they have helped with or prevented problems for a young person
  • 97% of mentors found the experience very positive
  • the majority of mentors believe they have helped solve at least one problem, and many name more than one
  • 54% of mentors find the relationship with the mentee highly satisfying and rewarding, and say they would do it again
  • 91% would recommend mentoring to a friend