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).

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