Striking the Balance: The Relative Benefits of Goal- and Youth-Focused Approaches to Youth Mentoring Relationships

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Striking the Balance: The Relative Benefits of Goal- and Youth-Focused Approaches to Youth Mentoring Relationships

Werntz, A., Poon, C. Y. S., & Rhodes, J. E. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. (Feb, 2023)
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Background

The study delves into the benefits of goal- and youth-focused approaches in youth mentoring relationships. While targeted, goal-focused mentoring has shown to improve behavioral and mental health outcomes compared to more recreational, non-specific approaches, it’s essential to balance this with mentees’ preferences. The research emphasizes the importance of considering the mentee’s perspective in these relationships.

Methods

This research is a secondary analysis of data from 2,165 youth participating in thirty nationally representative mentoring programs in the U.S. The average age of the youth was 12.3 years, with a majority being female (55%). The study utilized path analyses to explore associations between mentoring approaches, relationship measures (closeness and tension), and mental health outcomes (conduct problems, emotional symptoms, and depressive symptoms).

Findings

Findings revealed that both youth- and goal-focused approaches were positively associated with relationship closeness. However, while youth-focused approaches were negatively associated with tension, goal-focused approaches were positively associated with it. A stronger mentoring relationship, characterized by less tension and greater closeness, was linked to positive youth outcomes.

Implications

As the field of mentoring moves towards more targeted directions, it’s crucial not to stray too far from its core strength: the role of a caring relationship. Balancing goal-focused activities with a youth-centered approach can lead to more effective mentoring outcomes. The study underscores the importance of considering the mentee’s perspective and ensuring that mentoring approaches are both goal-oriented and youth-focused for optimal results.