Why Mentoring?

website builder This post highlights some of the reasons and research findings that back our mentoring approach.

At Citywise, we work in partnership with schools and families to empower young people to take hold of their futures, grow in character and the skills needed to succeed in today’s world, and positively contribute to society.

One of the ways we work towards this vision is through youth mentoring. We at Citywise all have positive experiences with mentoring, and believe in the transformational power of a personal connection that comes from caring for another person.

Yet it isn’t just our beliefs that guide our work. Numerous empirical studies have found that resilience and good character in young people are best facilitated by close supportive relationships with adults (DuBois & Silverthorn, 2005; Futch Ehrlich, Deutsch, Fox, Johnson, & Varga, 2016; Theokas and Lerner, 2006).

A meta-analysis of 55 evaluations of youth mentoring programmes by David DuBois and his colleagues (2002) found that when mentored, young people improve in five key areas: academic performance, employment, social competence, emotional well-being and high-risk behaviour. In the image below are only some of the most frequent key benefits identified.

Academic performance and future employment

Mentoring has been found to increase long-term academic performance (Herrera et al., 2011). More specifically, school-based mentoring programmes like Citywise, which occur within school during the academic year, are especially shown to increase a growth mindset (Harper & Williams, 2014) as well as a sense of school belonging (Grossman et al., 2002) and school-connectedness (Karcher, Davis & Powell, 2002). Mentoring in a group framework, in which students develop relationships with their classmates, also seems to contribute to improved school-connectedness (Karcher et al., 2002). All of these outcomes influence students’ motivation to learn and guide them on the pathway towards college and a career (Patrick, Anderman, & Ryan, 2002; Weiss et al., 2017).

Social and emotional well-being and behaviour

Research has found that having a mentor decreases depression and anxiety, improves coping skills, social and emotional intelligence, identity development and ‘prosocial’ engagement (DeWit et al., 2016; Rhodes, 2005; Zimmerman et al., 2002). For example, DeWit et al. (2016) assessed the effects of a mentoring programme on the well-being of 859 young people aged 6-17. They found that those who were mentored experienced positive health and social outcomes relative to never-mentored young people.

A 2014 review of studies published between 1970 and 2011 found that besides improved academic performance, being mentored leads to decreases in behavioural problems, aggression and drug use (Tolan et al., 2014), and other research has linked mentoring to improved civic character and caring behaviour (Erdem et al., 2016; Lerner et al., 2014; Schwartz & Rhodes, 2016).

How do these benefits come about?

There are different hypotheses as to why mentoring is so effective. Mentors can assist pupils in making decisions and prioritising (Karcher, 2008), in managing their emotions or dealing with stress, and in reflecting on their goals (Rhodes, 2005). They can help young people in considering “possible selves” – who they are, who they might become, who they would like to be and who they fear becoming (Markus & Nurius, 1986).

Mentoring has also been linked to attachment theory (Rhodes, 2005). A mentor may model a positive reciprocal relationship to a child, demonstrating that such relationships with adults are possible, and helping them experience how such healthy relationships work. This could be the case especially if a close bond develops between a mentor and an insecurely attached mentee (Britner et al., 2014). Indeed, having a mentor seems to improve children’s self-worth as well as their relationships with their teachers and parents, and help children build their own support networks (Keller, 2005).

Overall, the Citywise mentoring model, which focuses particularly on students in the transition period from primary to secondary school and makes use of school-based mentoring, is therefore strongly tied to our vision, as this kind of mentoring supports indicators of success and unlocking one’s potential as well as flourishing and societal contribution.


Britner, P. A., Randall, K. G., & Ahrens, K. R. (2014). Youth in foster care. In D. L Dubois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 341-354). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

DeWit, D. J., DuBois, D., Erdem, G., Larose, S., & Lipman, E. L. (2016). The Role of Program Supported Mentoring Relationships in Promoting Youth Mental Health, Behavioral and Developmental Outcomes. Prevention Science, 17(5), 646-657.

DuBois, D. L., Holloway, B. E., Valentine, J. C., & Cooper, H. (2002). Effectiveness of mentoring programs for youth: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30(2), 157-197.

DuBois, D. L., & Silverthorn, N. (2005). Natural mentoring relationships and adolescent health: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 518–524.

Erdem, G., DuBois, D. L., Larose, S., Wit, D., & Lipman, E. L. (2016). Mentoring relationships, positive development, youth emotional and behavioral problems: investigation of a mediational model. Journal of Community Psychology, 44(4), 464-483.

Futch Ehrlich, V. A., Deutsch, N. L., Fox, C. V., Johnson, H. E., & Varga, S. M. (2016). Leveraging relational assets for adolescent development: A qualitative investigation of youth–adult “connection” in positive youth development. Qualitative Psychology, 3(1), 59-78.

Grossman, J. B., Price, M. L., Fellerath, V., Jucovy, L. Z., Kotloff, L. J., Raley, R., et al. (2002). Multiple choices after school: Findings from the extended-service schools initiative. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED468056

Harper, S. R., & Williams Jr, C. D. (2014). Succeeding in the city: A report from the New York City Black and Latino male high school achievement study. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education. Retrieved from https://works.bepress.com/cdwilliamsjr/2/

Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., Kauh, T. J., & McMaken, J. (2011). Mentoring in schools: An impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters school‐based mentoring. Child development, 82(1), 346- 361.

Karcher, M. J. (2008). The Study of Mentoring in the Learning Environment (SMILE): A randomized study of the effectiveness of school-based mentoring. Prevention Science, 9(2), 99-113.

Karcher, M. J., Davis III, C., & Powell, B. (2002). The effects of developmental mentoring on connectedness and academic achievement. School Community Journal, 12(2), 35.

Keller, T.E. (2005). A systemic model of the youth mentoring intervention. Journal of Primary
Prevention, 26(2), 169–188.

Kohut, H. (1984). How does analysis cure? Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American psychologist, 41(9), 954.

Lerner, R. M., Napolitano, C. M., Boyd, M. J., Mueller, M. K., & Callina, K. S. (2014). Mentoring and positive youth development. In D. L Dubois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 17-27). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Patrick, H., Anderman, L. H., & Ryan, A. (2002). Social motivation and the classroom social environment. In C.Midgley (Ed.), Goals, goal structures, and patterns of adaptive learning (pp. 85–108). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Rhodes, J. E. (2005). A model of youth mentoring. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 30–43). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Schwartz, S., & Rhodes, J. (2016). From treatment to empowerment: New approaches to youth mentoring. American Journal of Community Psychology, 58(1-2), 150-157.

Theokas, C., & Lerner, R. M. (2006). Observed ecological assets in families, schools, and neighborhoods: Conceptualization, measurement, and relations with positive and negative developmental outcomes. Applied Developmental Science, 10(2), 61-74.

Tolan, P. H., Henry, D. B., Schoeny, M. S., Lovegrove, P., & Nichols, E. (2014). Mentoring programs to affect delinquency and associated outcomes of youth at risk: A comprehensive meta-analytic review. Journal of experimental criminology, 10(2), 179206

Weiss, S., Harder, J., Bratiotis, C., & Nguyen, E. (2017). Youth Perceptions of a School-Based Mentoring Program. Education and Urban Society, 0013124517722830.

Zimmerman, M. A., Bingenheimer, J. B., & Notaro, P. C. (2002). Natural mentors and adolescent resiliency: A study with urban youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30(2), 221-243.