What is Mentoring?

Mentoring Defined

Mentoring takes place between young persons (i.e., mentees) and older or more experienced persons (i.e., mentors) who are acting in a non-professional helping capacity to provide support that benefits one or more areas of the mentee’s development1

Mentoring of youth may be best understood using a multi-level framework2. Successfully advancing the quality and availability of mentoring for young people is expected to involve coordinated efforts across all these levels: 

  • Activities: What do mentors and mentees do and talk about together? What types of influential support do mentors provide?
  • Relationships: How and under what conditions do the interactions between mentors and mentees evolve into significant personal connections that are sustained over time? What are the most salient and important features of these ties?
  • Interventions: What types of practices are most conducive to effectiveness in programs that specialize in making formal mentoring available to youth? How can other types of youth-serving programs and organizations best support young persons' access to high-quality mentoring?
  • Policy: What initiatives can governmental and other institutions undertake to support mentoring? How can these efforts be coordinated for the greatest collective impact?
  • Societal: What is the nature and level of public support for youth mentoring? What factors influence the willingness and ability of community members to become involved themselves in mentoring young persons?


1 Adapted from DuBois and Karcher, "Youth Mentoring in Contemporary Perspective," in the Handbook of Youth Mentoring, 2nd edition (Sage Publications, 2014).
2 This framework assumes that youth can have important mentoring experiences (i.e. mentoring activities) with a variety of persons, including those with whom they do not have a significant interpersonal tie (i.e. mentoring relationship).

Key Mentoring Research

Youth mentoring research aims to explore the full range of issues that are involved in making high-quality mentoring available to all young persons. These issues include, but are not limited to, the characteristics of mentoring relationships that are most important in promoting positive developmental outcomes for youth, the effectiveness of different mentoring programs, practices, and the ways in which the most beneficial forms of mentoring may differ as a function of youths' personal characteristics and life circumstances. The breadth of topics currently being actively researched in the field is evident in the content of the most recent edition of the Handbook of Youth Mentoring (link opens in a new tab) as well as The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring (link opens in a new tab).

Mentee and Mentor


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