Research Alert: Study Explores Mentoring and Mental Health
JUNE 28, 2016
BY: GREGORY PICARD, HARVARD UNIVERSITY FELLOW, MENTOR: THE NATIONAL MENTORING PARTNERSHIP
Editor’s note: From time to time on the NMRC Blog we will cross-post announcements about research studies on mentoring drawing from the research listserv run by NMRC Research Board Chair Dr. David DuBois.
In a recent study, entitled “The role of program-supported mentorship relationships in promoting youth mental health, behavioral and developmental outcomes,” authors Dewit, Dubois, Erdem, Larose & Lipman (2016) “examined the relationship between youth mentoring status and behavioral, developmental, and emotional outcomes” for young people. To do so, the researchers listed surveyed 859 youths between the ages of six and seventeen before they were paired with a mentor. They analyzed outcomes for youths in a continuous mentoring relationship lasting less than twelve months, youths in a continuous mentoring relationship lasting 12 or more months, youths that had mentoring relationships dissolve after less than twelve months, and youths that had mentoring relationships dissolve after twelve or more months.
The study found that mentored youths, especially those in a mentoring relationship lasting twelve or more months, reported “significantly fewer behavioral problems and fewer symptoms of depression and social anxiety than did non-mentored youths.” However, the study also found that male youths who had a mentoring relationship end and were then re-matched with another mentor had significantly lower peer self-esteem and greater depressed mood than non-mentored youths. This did not appear to be a problem for female youths in the same situation, and while continuous mentoring relationships correlated the most strongly with better mental health it seems that any mentoring relationship at all is a net positive for young girls. The researchers speculate that maybe this is due to gender differences in what young boys and girls expect out of a mentoring relationship, but more research is needed to investigate this.
This study affirms the importance of mentoring, and in particular continuous mentorship. As mentoring organizations, we see every day the anecdotal evidence to the benefits of the relationships we cultivate, and this study is further evidence to support what we know from experience. Furthermore, one of the biggest challenges mentoring organizations face is recruiting and retaining committed mentors, and this study helps us realize the importance of this task. Strong commitments from mentors are necessary to achieve the youth outcomes we seek, as this study validates.
Article: Dewit, Dubois, Erdem, Larose & Lipman. (2016). The Role of program-supported mentoring relationships in promoting youth mental health, behavioral and developmental outcomes. Society for Prevention Research, 17(5), 646-657.