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Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS)

Evidence Rating

Some Evidence

Health Factors

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) matches volunteer mentors with disadvantaged or at-risk youth mentees (CEBC). BBBS provides a mentoring program design to its network of independent agencies. The program focuses on building supportive relationships rather than addressing problem behaviors (PPN). In the community-based version of BBBS, mentors spend about four hours per week engaging mentees in conversation and social activities for at least a year. In the school-based version, mentors meet mentees at their schools once a week during the academic year to engage in academic activities, conversation, and indoor games (CEBC).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced delinquent behavior

  • Increased academic achievement

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced aggression

  • Improved family functioning

  • Improved social skills

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) reduces delinquent behavior and improves school outcomes among mentees (CEBC, PPN, OJJDP Model Programs). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Community-based BBBS can reduce youth’s aggressive behavior, improve relationships with parents, prevent minority boys from initiating illegal drug use, and improve girls’ academic performance (PPN, Child Trends-Lawner 2013). School-based BBBS appears to improve academic performance for youth whose matches remain intact for the duration of the school year (). Programs that recruit high school students as mentors (“High School Bigs”) have demonstrated better peer relationships among mentee students than non-mentored peers (Herrera 2008). Youth entering the program with adequate parental relationships (neither very strong nor very poor) benefit the most from school-based BBBS ().

Research suggests that longer, closer matches yield stronger behavioral (, ), mental health (), and academic effects (, , Herrera 2007), possibly by enhancing the mentee’s relationships with teachers and parents (). Mentors who are college students appear less likely than other mentors to continue matches. Researchers recommend screening, training, and post-match support to ensure that matches continue ().

In school-based programs, mentoring meetings after school or during lunch time may have greater effects on academic outcomes than meetings held during school hours (). Researchers caution against using BBBS mentors primarily as tutors, as such matches appear less likely to endure (), and instead, recommend helping academically focused pairs connect interpersonally ().

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

From July 2010 to June 2011, BBBS served about 120,000 community-based mentees and 87,000 school-based mentees (BBBS-Annual report 2011).

Implementation Resources

BBBS - Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

OJJDP Model Programs - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). OJJDP model programs guide.

PPN - Promising Practices Network (PPN). On children, families and communities.

CEBC - California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC). Information and resources for child welfare professionals: List of programs.

Schwartz 2011* - Schwartz SEO, Rhodes JE, Chan CS, Herrera C. The impact of school-based mentoring on youths with different relational profiles. Developmental Psychology. 2011;47(2):450-62.

Grossman 2012* - Grossman JB, Chan CS, Schwartz SEO, Rhodes JE. The test of time in school-based mentoring: The role of relationship duration and re-matching on academic outcomes. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2012;49(1-2):43–54.

Gaddis 2012* - Gaddis SM. What’s in a relationship? An examination of social capital, race and class in mentoring relationships. Social Forces. 2012;90(4):1237–69.

Chan 2013* - Chan CS, Rhodes JE, Howard WJ, et al. Pathways of influence in school-based mentoring: The mediating role of parent and teacher relationships. Journal of School Psychology. 2013;51(1):129–42.

Pryce 2013* - Pryce JM, Keller TE. Interpersonal tone within school-based youth mentoring. Youth & Society. 2011;45(1):98–116.

Herrera 2008 - Herrera C, Kauh TJ, Cooney SM, Grossman JB, McMaken J. High school students as mentors: Findings from the Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring impact study. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures; 2008.

Herrera 2007 - Herrera C, Grossman JB, Kauh TJ, Feldman AF, McMaken J, Jucovy LZ. Making a difference in schools: The Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring impact study. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures; 2007.

Child Trends-Lawner 2013 - Lawner EK, Beltz M, Moore KA. What works for mentoring programs: Lessons from experimental evaluations of programs and interventions. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends; 2013.

Herrera 2011* - Herrera C, Grossman JB, Kauh TJ, McMaken J. Mentoring in schools: An impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring. Child Development. 2011;82(1):346–361.

DeWit 2016* - DeWit DJ, DuBois D, Erdem G, Larose S, Lipman EL. The role of program-supported mentoring relationships in promoting youth mental health, behavioral and developmental outcomes. Prevention Science. 2016;17(5):646–657.

Park 2016a* - Park H, Yoon J, Crosby SD. A pilot study of big brothers big sisters programs and youth development: An application of critical race theory. Children and Youth Services Review. 2016;61:83–89.

Bayer 2015* - Bayer A, Grossman JB, DuBois DL. Using volunteer mentors to improve the academic outcomes of underserved students: The role of relationships. Journal of Community Psychology. 2015;43(4):408–429.

Schwartz 2012* - Schwartz SEO, Rhodes JE, Herrera C. The influence of meeting time on academic outcomes in school-based mentoring. Children and Youth Services Review. 2012;34(12):2319–2326.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

BBBS-Annual report 2011 - Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Annual report 2010-2011 - A report to the community: Putting our children on a path to success. 2011.

Date Last Updated

Jun 8, 2016