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What are the Benefits of Mentoring?

Preliminary studies show that high quality mentoring has the potential to be a successful intervention strategy to address risk among youth and to promote positive behaviors and attitudes. Researchers have not yet sufficiently distilled the specific impacts of mentoring alone from the impacts of the programs in which they take place, but have suggested that close, consistent, and enduring mentoring relationships are likely to have positive benefits. A strong connection characterized by mutuality, trust, and empathy that spans a significant time period, and is focused on the young person’s interests and preferences is likely to make an impact, while a distant, brief, or inconsistent relationship is not.1

Potential Educational Benefits

  • Better academic performance. A 1995 study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program identified that youth with mentors earned higher grades than a similar group of young people who did not have mentors.2 Another study of the program in 2007 identified that young people in school-based mentoring programs turned in higher quality class work, did better academically especially in science and written and oral communication, and completed more of their assignments than their peers who did not have mentors. 3
  • Better school attendance. Both studies indicated that youth with mentors had fewer unexcused absences from class than students without mentors.
  • Positive attitudes. Teachers of students in the BELONG mentoring program in Bryan-College Station, Texas reported that mentored students were more engaged in the classroom than students who did not have mentors, and also seemed to place a higher value on school. 4

Potential Behavioral Benefits

  • Decreased likelihood of initiating illegal drug and alcohol use. A BBBS study showed that mentees were less likely than their peers to begin using drugs or alcohol during the eighteen-month the period they were studied. The study showed 6.2 percent of mentees initiated drug use compared to 11.4 percent of their peers without mentors, and 19.4 percent initiated alcohol use compared to 26.7 percent.2 Another study of the “Across Ages” mentoring program indicated that mentees gained important life skills to help them stay away from drugs.5
  • Decreased violent behavior. Mentees in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program were 32 percent less likely to report having hit someone over the past year than the young people without mentors. 2

Other Potential Benefits

  • Mentoring has also been linked in studies to social-emotional development benefits, improvements in youth perceptions of parental relationships, and better prospects for moving on to higher education.

Promising Practices are Key to Positive Outcomes

Research shows that mentoring programs are not likely to be effective unless they are done well. Key elements leading to greater impacts include:

  • Mentors have previous relevant experience in helping others,
  • Mentors commit to at least twelve months of participation,
  • Mentors are carefully trained and supported and receive help structuring activities with mentees,
  • The program is monitored for early problem detection,
  • Parents are involved as much as possible, and
  • Programs are evaluated and flexible to change as necessary.

For more information on building a successful mentoring program, see MENTOR’s Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (PDF).




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