Do Relationships Matter? An Examination of a School-Based Intergenerational Mentoring Program
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Although relationships are central to psychological health throughout the lifespan, not all children have caring adults in their lives that can provide nurturing and stable relationships. Mentoring was established as a means of providing these essential adult relationships to at-risk children. Although the history of formal mentoring traces back to the beginning of 20th century America, only recently have systematic investigations of mentoring programs been conducted. Furthermore, a wide range of mentoring programs across North America have been implemented which has outpaced the research community’s ability to provide evidence-based practice guidelines. The goal of this dissertation was to contribute to research and practice in the field of youth mentoring. In the first study I evaluated the effects of participating in a school-based intergenerational mentoring program. Although I did not find benefits of program participation for mentors or mentees, I identified methodological limitations that are important for future studies to take into consideration and determined two key strengths of the program. In the second study, I compared mentee, mentor, and mentoring coordinator perspectives on mentoring relationship quality and examined how two components of mentor-mentee interactions, relationship dimensions and mentor-mentee shared experiences, were associated with these different perspectives. I developed an observational rating scale to examine a new framework of relationships dimensions, identified several elements that characterize high quality mentoring relationships, and provided suggestions for how to apply this knowledge to mentor training. In the last study, I discussed the connection between research and practice in youth mentoring and identified strategies to promote collaborative interactions that empower individuals, build social relationships, and create synergy between researchers and practitioners. Through my investigation of both mentor-mentee and research-practice relationships, I gained insight into the processes of successful relationship formation and characteristics of long-term relationships. I encountered several methodological barriers and used these as opportunities to identify strategies for overcoming challenges inherent in mentoring research. The knowledge gained through this dissertation can be applied by mentoring agencies to develop evidence-based mentor training programs and by researchers and practitioners to form successful research-practice collaborations, which are necessary to continue to further our understanding of youth mentoring.