Evidence Rating for this Practice:
In the study reviewed, the methodology used for assessing effects of the practice did not meet relevant criteria for rigor. As a result, the study was designated as Insufficient Evidence and the practice as a whole is designated as Insufficient Research.
Description of Practice:
Family support involves systematic efforts to provide services and opportunities to the families of mentees. Family support often may be directed toward not the mentee’s parent(s)/caregiver(s). However, it also may be oriented toward supporting other family members (e.g., siblings, extended kin) as well as the mentee’s family as a whole. Potential forms of family support include direct service or training (e.g., parenting classes) as well as brokering of community resources (e.g., referral systems). Such support may be provided by professional staff, by mentors, or a combination of the two. The timing, intensity, and duration of family support activities can vary and may be tailored to the assessed needs and preferences of individual families. Family support is distinguished from other family involvement practices that are geared primarily toward strengthening the mentor-mentee relationship (e.g., parent orientation to the mentoring program, match support, partnering with parents). It is also distinct from approaches that are focused on mentoring entire families rather than individual youth within families.
The primary goal of the practice is to enhance mentee outcomes by providing support to the mentee’s family; strengthening and enhancing outcomes within the mentee’s family as a whole may also be a goal.
Target Population/Eligibility of Target Sites:
This practice is potentially applicable to all forms of mentoring so long as the youth being served retain relationships with their families.
Theory and Evidence-Informed Principles:
Family support is not guided by a particular theoretical perspective. However, the focus of this practice is consistent with emphasis accorded to family influences within ecological models of development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). These perspectives call attention to the influence that familial relationships and circumstances may have on the youth’s experiences in his or her broader social network (which would include a young person’s relationship with a mentor) as well as the significance that such experiences can end up having for developmental outcomes (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). The practice of seeking to support or strengthen the mentee’s family is also consistent with extensive research that has established the importance and influence of parents and families on youth development (Youngblade et al., 2007).
Corresponding Elements of Effective Practice:
This practice is most relevant to the area of Monitoring and Support within the Elements of Effective Practice.
The successful implementation of this practice is likely to require staff to have experience with family engagement, strategies for effective family-centered programming, and knowledge of referral systems and services for families in the community. Additionally, staff may need to be culturally competent to engage families of various cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Barron-McKeagney et al (2002) examined the practice of family support as part of an evaluation of the Family Mentoring Program (FMP). The FMP was a community-based mentoring program that served 8 to 12 year old, predominately Latino children and their parents who were living in a community considered high risk and underserved. As part of the program, which lasted 18 months, parents were provided with educational programs on gang prevention, parenting skills, health, AIDS prevention, and community resources. Parents were also invited to all social/recreational activities organized for mentor-mentee pairs.
Forty-nine children were recruited for the mentoring program. The study focused on the mothers of these children largely because their fathers were not as readily available. Thirty-four mothers completed both pre and post-intervention surveys and thus comprised the study sample. Seventy-four percent of the mothers were Latino, only 25 percent had finished high school, 55 percent worked outside the home, 14 percent received aid to dependent children, and 61 percent were married, while 22 percent were divorced and 14 percent were single.
The Parent-Child Relationship Inventory (PCRI) was completed by mothers. The PCRI measures each of the following different aspects of the parent-child relationship: parental support, satisfaction with parenting, involvement with child, communication, limit setting, autonomy, and role orientation. Additionally, the Family Hardiness Index (FHI) was used to measure family strength, also as reported by mothers. These measures were completed both pre-intervention and at the end of the 18 month intervention period (i.e., post-intervention).
Staff logs of parent participation in the educational program offerings were used to determine the number of hours mothers spent in these activities. Stepwise linear regression analyses were conducted to predict post-intervention scores on each subscale of the PCRI as well as the total score on the FHI. Candidate measures for entry as predictors in each regression included the mother’s level of participation in the parent education offerings, the child’s combined hours of participation in individual mentoring and group education programs, and the mother’s pre-intervention rating of the child’s level problematic behavior as assessed by the Social Skills Rating Scale. Probability required for predictors to earn entry was p < .05; the criterion for removal was p > .10.
Barron-McKeagney et al (2002) found that mother’s hours in parent education programs was a significant predictor of the mothers’ post-intervention scores on the Support subscale of the PCRI. Greater participation in the parent education program predicted higher reported levels of support.
Barron-McKeagney et al. (2002) found that mother’s hours in parent education programs was not significantly associated with mothers’ post-intervention scores for the Satisfaction subscale of the PCRI.
Barron-McKeagney et al. (2002) found that mother’s hours in parent education program was not significantly associated with changes in mothers’ scores for the Involvement subscale of the PCRI.
Barron-McKeagney et al. (2002) found that mother’s hours in parent education program was significantly associated with changes in mothers’ scores for the Communication subscale of the PCRI. Greater participation in the parent education program predicted higher score on Communication.
Barron-McKeagney et al. (2002) found that mother’s hours in parent education program was not significantly associated with changes in mothers’ scores for the Limit Setting subscale of the PCRI.
Barron-McKeagney et al. (2002) found that mother’s hours in parent education program was not significantly associated with changes in mothers’ scores for the Autonomy subscale of the PCRI.
Barron-McKeagney et al. (2002) found that mother’s hours in parent education program was not significantly associated with changes in mothers’ scores for the Role Orientation subscale of the PCRI.
Family Hardiness Index (FHI)
Barron-McKeagney et al. (2002) also found that mother’s hours in parent education program was not significantly associated with changes in mothers’ scores for family strength (as measured by the FHI).
Scores for mothers of children in the Family Mentoring Program (FMP) on the PCRI and FHI were also compared with those for parents in the standardized samples used in the development of the PCRI and FHI measures. At pre-test, FMP mothers scored significantly lower than parents in the standardized samples on six of the seven PCRI subscales (support, satisfaction, involvement, communication, limit setting, and autonomy) and on the FHI. At posttest, the FMP mothers’ scores were significantly lower than those of the standardized samples for only four of the seven PCRI subscales (satisfaction, involvement, communication, and autonomy).
External Validity Evidence:
Variations in the Practice
There was only one study reviewed for this practice and it considered only one form of potential family support (i.e., parent education). Information is thus lacking on either the overall or relative effective of other forms of support for families (e.g., community referral systems).
Participating youth, in the single available study, were from a multiethnic community with high crime rates and youth violence. Most program participants were Latino, almost half were female, and their ages ranged between 8 and 12 years. The study did not test for possible differences in the consequences of family support in relation to youth characteristics.
In the single available study, mentors were recruited primarily from churches in the community and from local colleges and universities. Two-thirds of the mentors were female, 50 percent were Caucasian, 42 percent were Hispanic, and 8 percent were African American. Approximately one-fourth were college students and two-thirds worked in clerical or higher level positions. Twelve of the mentors spoke both English and Spanish. The study did not test for possible differences in the consequences of family support in relation to mentor characteristics.
The single available study was conducted within a program that used a 1-to-1 mentoring format delivered in a community setting. In addition to the one-on-one interactions, mentor-mentee pairs participated in group social activities and events that were arranged by the program.
The single available study focused on parental reports regarding the parent-child relationship as well as overall family hardiness. This study does not report outcomes related to the mentoring relationships of youth, the relationships of parents with their children’s mentors, or youth outcomes (such as grades).
Resources Available to Support Implementation:
Resources are currently not available.
Barron-McKeagney, T., Woody, J. D., & D’Souza H. J. (2002). Mentoring at-risk Latino children and their parents: Analysis of the parent-child relationship and family strength. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 83, 285-292. doi: 10.1023/A:1007698728775
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives. Developmental Psychology, 22, 723-742. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2063
Youngblade, L., Theokas, C., Schulenberg, J., Curry, L., Huang, I., & Novak, M. (2007). Risk and promotive factors in families, schools, and communities: A contextual model of positive youth development in adolescence. Pediatrics, 119(Suppl. 1), S47-S53. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-2089H