Mentoring programs: delinquency

Mentoring programs focused on reducing delinquency enlist mentors to develop relationships and spend time individually with at-risk mentees for an extended period. Mentors have greater knowledge, skills, or experience than mentees, but are not in professional or pre-determined relationships with the mentees such as parent-child or teacher-student (Campbell-Tolan 2013).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced delinquent behavior

  • Reduced aggression

  • Reduced drug use

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced alcohol use

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that mentoring programs reduce delinquent behavior, aggression, and drug use for at-risk youth (Campbell-Tolan 2013, Matz 2014). Effects can vary significantly by program; programs that make emotional support or mentee advocacy a key component appear to have greater effects than programs that emphasize modeling or teaching (Campbell-Tolan 2013). Mentoring programs may also reduce alcohol use for at-risk youth in some cases (Matz 2014, Thomas 2013*).

Youth facing environmental risk factors such as low family income benefit more from mentoring than youth with no risk factors or only individual risk factors such as academic challenges (DuBois 2002*, DuBois 2011*). Youth with adequate relationships with their parents may also benefit more than those with very strong or very poor parental relationships (Schwartz 2011*).

CDC researchers recommend that programs set program-wide goals while mentors and mentees set individual session goals. In choosing mentors, programs should clearly define qualifications, and consider mentors’ commitment, abilities, and life circumstances (CDC-Thornton 2002). Mentors’ race or socio-economic status may not affect outcomes (Gaddis 2012*); frequent interaction (Miller 2012*), long durations in a mentor-mentee relationship, and high levels of trust have been associated with stronger academic and behavioral outcomes (Gaddis 2012*).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Mentoring is one of the most commonly used interventions to prevent and reduce delinquent behavior (Campbell-Tolan 2013).

Implementation Resources

MENTOR - MENTOR. MENTOR: The national mentoring partnership that promotes, advocates, and is a resource for mentoring.

MENTOR 2016 - MENTOR. Elements of effective practice for mentoring. Alexandria: MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership; 2016.

OJJDP-Mentoring - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Mentoring resources.

CDC-Thornton 2002 - Thornton TN. Strategies to prevent youth violence: Mentoring strategy. In Chapter 2 of: Craft CA, Dahlberg LL, Lynch BS, Baer K, eds. Best practices of youth violence prevention: A sourcebook for community action. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 2002:119-207.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Campbell-Tolan 2013 - Tolan P, Henry D, Schoeny M, et al. Mentoring interventions to affect juvenile delinquency and associated problems: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2013:9.

Matz 2014 - Matz AK. Commentary: Do youth mentoring programs work? A review of the empirical literature. OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice. 2014;3(2):83–101.

Thomas 2013* - Thomas RE, Lorenzetti DL, Spragins W. Systematic review of mentoring to prevent or reduce alcohol and drug use by adolescents. Academic Pediatrics. 2013;13(4):292–299.

DuBois 2002* - DuBois DL, Holloway BE, Valentine JC, Cooper H. Effectiveness of mentoring programs for youth: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2002;30(2):157-97.

DuBois 2011* - DuBois DL, Portillo N, Rhodes JE, Silverthorn N, Valentine JC. How effective are mentoring programs for youth? A systematic assessment of the evidence. Psychological Science Public Interest. 2011;12(2):57-91.

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.

CDC-Thornton 2002 - Thornton TN. Strategies to prevent youth violence: Mentoring strategy. In Chapter 2 of: Craft CA, Dahlberg LL, Lynch BS, Baer K, eds. Best practices of youth violence prevention: A sourcebook for community action. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 2002:119-207.

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.

Miller 2012* - Miller JM, Barnes JC, Miller HV, McKinnon L. Exploring the link between mentoring program structure & success rates: Results from a national survey. American Journal of Criminal Justice. 2013;38(3):439-56.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Campbell-Tolan 2013 - Tolan P, Henry D, Schoeny M, et al. Mentoring interventions to affect juvenile delinquency and associated problems: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2013:9.

Date Last Updated