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Different Mentoring Styles

Posted by on November 2, 2012

Know Your Role: How Different Mentoring Styles Contribute to Youth Outcomes

by Sable Watson – Thursday, April 5, 2012, 04:09 PM



The success of a mentoring relationship largely depends on what the mentor’s role is in a child’s life, as well as the kinds of activities they do together. In this mixed-methods study, the researchers examined the effects of four different types of mentoring relationships:

  • Teaching assistant/tutoring- focuses primarily on academics, with the mentor assisting the mentee with his or her schoolwork.
  • Friend/engaging- involves relationship building through games and conversation.
  • Sage/counseling- is balanced between the mentor serving as a role-model and friend.
  • Acquaintance/floundering- is uncoordinated, with the mentor and mentee frequently participating in activities apart.

The findings revealed that of all four mentoring styles, the sage/counseling type of mentoring relationship was most successful in terms of positive youth outcomes. Mentees who were involved in sage/counseling mentoring relationships showed decreases in depressive symptoms and aggressive behaviors. While some of the other mentoring styles showed some success, none showed as much in comparison. In fact, the acquaintance/floundering relationships reflected many negative traits. Nonetheless, the sage/counseling style of mentoring was the only one that maintained a balance between being a friend and being an authority figure or role model.

As a mentor, it is important to find a balance between being your mentee’s friend and being someone that your mentee can look up to. This study demonstrates that finding an appropriate balance could lead to significant changes in your mentee’s attitudes and positive development. To learn more about the roles you should play in your mentee’s life, visit Lesson 3 of Mentoring Central.



What was the purpose of this study?
To understand how mentor-mentee activities and roles correspond to the quality of the mentoring relationship as well as youth outcomes. Mentoring relationships were categorized into four different themes: teaching assistant/tutoring, friend/engaging, sage/counseling, and acquaintance/floundering with the point of this study being to examine the effects of each relationship type.

Who were the mentors?
Adult volunteers from businesses or community organizations, such as a high-tech firm or supply company. Mentors were recruited based on a partnership between their place of employment and local elementary schools.

What type of mentoring was provided?
School-based, individual mentoring. However, the matches met in group settings, meaning that mentors would arrive in groups to meet their mentees, who would be waiting in a location such as the library or cafeteria.

What did the researchers find?
Mentoring relationships that fell in the sage/counseling category were most successful, with mentees showing significant reductions in depressive symptoms and aggressive behaviors throughout the academic year. The researchers suggest that this relationship type is successful due to its balanced nature. Mentors who engaged in a sage/counseling relationship provided their mentees with guidance from an adult perspective, but remained youth-focused and made it a point to have fun as well.

Researchers also found that the friend/engaging and teaching assistant/tutoring relationships were moderately successful, with students giving these types of relationships average reports. The acquaintance/floundering relationship category, on the other hand, received generally poor reviews in respect to the other relationship types. Researchers found that this type of relationship reflected the tell-tale signs of relationship failure such as: disengagement, lack of motivation, and unfulfilled expectations. The findings in this study reveal that a sage/counseling relationship yields the most positive youth outcomes overall.

Source: Keller, T. E., & Pryce, J. M. (2012). Different roles and different results: How activity orientations correspond to relationship quality and student outcomes in school-based mentoring. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 33, 47-64. doi: 10.1007/s10935-012-0264

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