The Effects of Mentoring at-Risk Youth

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THE EFFECTS OF MENTORING AT-RISK YOUTH

Abstract:

Mentoring has arguments both for and against its effectiveness in relation to at-risk youth. These programs have been known to help in areas of self-esteem, attitudes toward drugs and alcohol, grades, attendance and disciplinary problems in school. Although, the scope of at-risk youth can be quite narrow, if administered correctly it can be inclusive of all teens with emotional and behavioral problems. These programs should not be considered a quick fix to such a large problem, but it can be used as a means to an end.

Mentoring programs for youth and teens considered to be at-risk have begun to grow throughout the country. Not all programs agree on a generalized approach, but it is fair to say the concept is the same when dealing with this group of youth. The term mentor is basically described as a trusted counselor or teacher. The term at-risk, for purposes of this study, relates to youth from single parent households, who exhibit emotional and behavioral problems. The overall consensus is to pair a responsible and caring adult with a troubled adolescent youth. The ultimate goal is for a relationship to form and to build a bond of trust with an adult who can in turn, help them deal with the troubles that often arrive in life.

Unfortunately, many adolescents are never given the opportunity to build relationships with caring adults. Nearly a quarter of all American children will live in single-parent homes, and half of the current generation of children will live in a single-parent household during some point in their childhood (Dryfoos, 1998). There are a host of factors that contribute to this situation such as changing economic, social and cultural conditions have increased the vulnerability of negative life outcomes for adolescents’ (Dryfoos, 1998). Natural mentors are described as close family members such as father, mother, uncles, aunts, brother’s, sister’s and/or grandparents. In order to address the problems that have come to light as a result of the diminished availability of natural mentors, volunteer mentoring programs have multiplied in recent years (Freedam, 1993; Rhodes, in press). Just as natural mentoring, volunteer mentoring involves building a relationship between the youth and adults, as to off support in meeting the youth’s academic, social, career, and/or personal goals (Dubois, et al., in press). It is estimated that as many as five million American youth are involved in some type of mentor program being it in school or community based. They range from such programs as the renowned Big Brothers/Big Sisters to other less structured programs.

Without such programs to assist these youth, once they are adults, they are more likely candidates for divorce, high unemployment; physical and mental problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and quite often become involved in more criminal activity (Patterson, Debaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989). If left unchecked, these problems could prove costly both to society and the individual. Whereas the approximate average cost of a well organized and operated mentoring program is estimated at around $1,000, taking into account a per child per year projection, it could eliminate or at least marginalize the need for future social services (Grossman & Gary, 1997).

Youth without the proper social support framework or low levels of social support, has a tendency to be withdrawn, and show a lack of concern about their future. They are negligent, and more likely to harm others than were youth who had the privilege of being exposed to a proper social support system (Kashani, Reid, & Rosinberg, 1989). Although only a vice mentoring could provide some social support and could improve the way these youth function in society. Some...
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