Predicting the Effectiveness of Youth Mentoring Interventions: The Role of Mentors’ Depressive Symptoms and Stress Exposure

Over the past two decades, structured youth mentoring programs have increased in popularity as an intervention for children living with a host of stressful life circumstances, such as chronic poverty and exposure to community violence. Such programs have been shown to reduce youth risk for emotional distress, particularly depressive symptoms (Herrera, Grossman, Kauh, & McMaken 2011,Rhodes & DuBois, 2008); yet, the effect size of youth gains remains relatively small. As a result, recent research has sought to identify factors that might augment the effectiveness of mentoring interventions. In this study I will investigate the influence of mentors’ history of early life stress and baseline depressive symptoms on their effectiveness in mentoring relationships with youth. Participants included 271 mentor-youth pairs entering a nationwide youth mentoring program. All mentors and youth were randomized to complete nine months of weekly mentoring sessions throughout the academic year. At baseline, prior to mentor-youth matching, mentor early life stress was assessed using the Risky Families Questionnaire (Carroll, Gruenewald, Taylor, Janicki-Deverts, Matthews, & Seeman 2013) and mentor depressive symptoms were assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale—Revised (CESD-R; Eaton, Muntaner, Smith, Tien & Ybarra 2004). Over the summer I will analyze this data looking for predictors of relationship success and trends of mentor efficacy. Findings from this study will have important implications for adjusting the recruitment, training, and matching of adult volunteers within youth mentoring interventions in order the maximize the impact of such programs on youth psychosocial outcomes.