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Most of us like to think that mentoring programs are successful. We might base this on our own personal experience of being mentored or mentoring someone else, but are mentoring programs really successful? Do they work? Given the time and expense some mentoring programs involve, it would be worth it to know if mentoring programs are worth the social investment made in them.


While there are many mentoring programs in place around the United States, precious few of them have ever been studied for effectiveness. That changed in 2011 when David DuBois and Jean Rhodes, national experts on mentoring, did a systematic assessment of the evidence on mentoring.  They studied 73 different evaluations of mentoring programs focused on children and adolescents from 1999 – 2010.


This is a summary of what they found.




  1. Different types of mentoring programs produce different types of results. For instance, a mentoring program focused on development of positive self-concept, self-efficacy and future orientation produced significant psychological and emotion benefits. A different program focused on preparing youth to finish high school and enter college produced adequate results on academic success but very significant improvements to youths’ attitudes and motivations to succeed.
  2. Overall, well-delivered mentoring as an intervention strategy with at-risk youth is successful.
  3. Mentoring programs tend to be successful across a wide range of youth, locales, modes of delivery and outcomes desired.


Original article citation:  DuBois, D. L., Portillo, N., Rhodes, J. E., Silverthorn, N, & Valentine, J. C. (2011). How effective are mentoring programs for youth? A systematic assessment of the evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12(2), 55-91.

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Dr. Chris Downs has devoted much of his professional career to improving services and outcomes for older, at-risk youth. Chris is President of The Downs Group LLC, based in Seattle and has the pleasure of working with many talented professionals in child welfare and allied areas including his company Associates.