Mentoring Works Best When Adults, Kids Share Common Interests

Most programs aren't effective when the kids have really serious problems, researchers say

FRIDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Although mentoring programs intended to help children socially, emotionally or academically do offer a number of benefits, these advantages are generally limited and may not be enough for kids facing serious problems, a new report says.

The authors of the report, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest reviewed more than 70 existing evaluations of mentoring programs.

While overall, mentoring programs have been shown to be beneficial, particularly in helping children improve test scores, there is little research proving that mentoring helps with overall educational attainment, decreases juvenile offenses substance use or helps prevent obesity, among the main issues facing U.S. children today.

And though mentoring helps with kids experiencing some difficulties, most of these programs are not suitable for kids with really serious problems, the report said.

Mentoring programs that matched kids and adults based on common interests so they can find mutually enjoyable activities to do together seem to work best, according to the report.

Mentors have to watch out not to become "over-involved" in a child's life and to avoid giving so much guidance that they come off sounding bossy, study author David DuBois, a professor of community health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a journal news release.

"Mentoring programs represent a particularly exciting direction for maintaining strong investments in the future of our nation's youth despite the economic challenges that are currently facing the country," Dubois said.

More information

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management provides more information on mentoring.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release, October 2011

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