The Mentoring of Male Youth

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Theoretically, these types of programs may offer enhanced benefits for Black boys because the approaches may be consistent with their cultural values and take into consideration the cultural context of the lives of Black boys. However, as discussed below, there are evaluations of several individual programs of this type. These types of adaptations are focused on addressing the cultural, psychological, social, environmental, and historical factors that influence the behaviors of the target group 19 and thus, theoretically, could be of particular value in supporting Black boys.

An example of a deep structure adaptation is when a program is designed to incorporate cultural values or traditions of Black or African-American culture. The Nguzo Saba are eight principles or values that serve as the basis for Afrocentric movements in the U. These values have been used to connect African-Americans to their heritage and understand their experiences with racism, slavery, and the influence of the dominant European worldview and culture.

Further examples of programs incorporating deep structural adaptations include the Umoja mentoring program, in which African drumming circles Spir-rhythms were utilized as a cultural arts tool to provide group mentoring to African-American male adolescents. Implicit in the design of several programs is also the idea that effectiveness may be enhanced when attention is given to cultural tailoring with respect to not only race, but also issues of gender and its intersection with race. For instance, in the aforementioned therapeutic group mentoring program, participants learned what it means to be an African-American male in an anti-Black society 15 and in BAROPP youth received Black manhood development training.

Also of note are mentoring and other kinds of culturally tailored interventions that have been designed with the aim of addressing the achievement gap between African-American and White students.

In related research, Yeager et al. These researchers found that students who received wise feedback from their White teachers on an essay that they wrote were more likely to turn in a revised essay, improved their essay scores, and even improved their grades compared to African-American students who did not receive wise feedback.

Mentoring Boys and Young Men of Color

Some of these effects were not observed in the White students in the studies or the effects were stronger for African-American students compared to White students. Yaeger et al. However, these findings combined with the results from the Good et al. An approach in which Black boys are viewed as partners in the delivery of mentoring rather than only as recipients of mentoring may influence the effectiveness of mentoring programs for these youth.

How to Mentor a Young Man

For instance, the Young Men for Change, 24 a school-based group mentoring program for African-American male high school students, utilized a critical pedagogy 25 approach in the curriculum. Rather than using a hierarchical approach in which the mentor imparted knowledge onto the mentee, mentors and mentees co-constructed knowledge and reflected on the institutional and societal forces that influence their experiences as African-American teenage boys.

This approach challenges the status quo and is used to empower youth to understand their life circumstances, make choices, and to take action to improve their lives. Program features that are responsive to the existing relationships and sources of support that Black male youth have available to them also have the potential to be important. Finally, another program characteristic not to be overlooked as potentially significant is dosage—that is, the amount and intensity of mentoring that is received by each participating youth.

The evaluation of the Village Model of Care 27 program found that students who attended half or more of the group mentoring sessions had greater increases in their GPA from the first to fourth quarter than those who attended less than half of the sessions. Although participating in the mentoring program longer could theoretically lead to higher academic achievement, it is possible that the students who attended more group mentoring sessions were simply different e.

A mentor characteristic that has received attention in the literature is whether cross- versus same-race mentoring relationships matter in youth mentoring programs. There are no studies, however, that have examined the implications of matching Black male youth specifically with a Black mentor.

A study of 74 African-American male college students who were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions in which they listened to mock mentor-mentee interactions revealed that participants rated African-American faculty mentors as more culturally sensitive and a more credible source of help than White faculty mentors.

Among male mentees specifically, and controlling for the length of the mentoring relationship, Rhodes et al. No statistically significant differences were found, however, on several other outcomes e. DuBois et al. Two other mentor characteristics that could influence the effectiveness of mentoring for Black boys are mentor gender and the shared life experiences between mentors and mentees.

Theoretically, having a male mentor with similar life experiences could help facilitate closeness in the relationship and foster positive identification of a Black male youth with his mentor. Resilience theory suggests that youth who have faced adverse situations, but have access to resources, can avoid negative outcomes. It should be noted, too, that all of the above types of factors i.

Illustratively, with regard to cultural mistrust, research on Black male college students has revealed evidence that cultural mistrust may influence their mentoring relationships with White mentors. This suggests the potential for same-race mentoring relationships to be particularly important for youth with higher levels of cultural mistrust and thus implicates youth and mentor characteristics together. Yet, the potential also exists for this type of dependency to be mitigated by program practices, such as training for White mentors aimed at promoting use of culturally responsive approaches to supporting Black male youth e.

With regard to youth characteristics, in the evaluation of the Helping Hands mentoring program referred to above, it was found that there was an interaction between the number of years in the program and whether the student had a disability iii,7 Specifically, participating in Helping Hands for more years was related more strongly to higher standardized math test scores for students with disabilities than for those without.

With relevance to program dosage, in the evaluation of the Helping Hands program there was a trend in that more years in the program was related to higher standardized reading test scores. Researcher observations of the Young Men for Change program and interviews of 11 mentees in this program 24 suggested that the critical pedagogy approach used in the program seemed to offer several benefits for participants.

First, the dialogue phase appeared to create a sense of belonging and to help mentees express their emotions within a safe space, both of which may have improved their social-emotional well-being.

Last, the praxis taking action phase, in which students organized a community forum to dispel negative stereotypes about African-American boys and men, appeared to empower students to utilize and further develop their leadership skills. With relevance to the potential significance of mentor gender for Black male youth, analyses of data from a study of informal mentoring relationships among African-American older adolescents found no difference in school outcomes among male participants based on the gender of the reported role model.

They further found that African-American adolescents without a father figure who had a male mentor earned more during adulthood than African-American adolescents with a father figure. Some research also has touched on the potential significance of whether Black male youth and their mentors share life experiences. In the Garraway and Pistrang study, 13 mentors and mentees reported that shared life experiences e. When asked about cultural similarity with their mentors, mentees stated that it was not so much the shared cultural identity that was important as it was their shared life experiences.

All but two of the mentoring programs that were the focus of research considered in this literature review recruited African-American men exclusively as mentors. As such, a combination of a shared cultural identity and similar life experiences may have helped to promote bonds between Black boys and their Black male mentors and thus contributed to the observed positive outcomes.

Additional Resources

The researchers controlled for age, family structure, social class, self-reported grades, and daily stressors in the statistical analyses. They found that among boys without a mentor, more interpersonal racial discrimination i. However, for boys who reported an informal mentor, racial discrimination was related to fewer school suspensions and more school engagement. One potential interpretation for these findings is that mentoring helped to reduce or buffer the effects of experiences of racial discrimination among African-American boys. Of particular importance to Black boys could be strengthening their ethnic and racial identity.

A recent literature review concluded that a positive ethnic and racial identity is related to better academic, psychosocial, and health outcomes in African-American adolescents. Theory and research in youth mentoring also underscore the importance of the quality of mentoring relationships in linking participation in mentoring programs to positive youth outcomes.

Based on a shared experience of oppression, African-American men and boys have historically valued loyalty, connection, and emotional expression with other Black males e. In line with this possibility, research on boys of color in group mentoring programs has pointed toward the importance of feelings of brotherhood and emotional connection that are developed among participants.

A qualitative study was conducted of 14 African-American and Latino male adolescents in the Umoja Network for Young Men UMOJA , a school-based, group, male mentoring program at an alternative high school for students who are overage and under-credited i. Finally, the research 43 found that trust was established in the mentoring program, which enabled students to open up and talk about their personal lives. The researchers concluded that group processes seemed to have contributed to students feeling that they have the potential to succeed and to have higher personal aspirations e.

Similarly, the Young Men for Change program staff engaged in a dialogue phase to allow African-American high school boys to express their emotions and to create a safe space for peers and adults to support and care for one another without sacrificing their manhood. Theoretically, promoting an ethos of care and brotherhood may be a mechanism for promoting positive outcomes in Black boys in particular because it helps to directly combat the negative images and stereotypes projected upon them in their schools and communities.


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For instance, Swanson, Cunningham, and Spencer 44 found that Black male adolescents who reported negative perceptions of Black males in their community were more likely to report exaggerated stereotypical ideas about male attitudes bravado. In contrast, those with positive teacher experiences were less likely to report bravado attitudes. The extent to which the mentoring relationships and experiences of Black boys promote positive images and emotional connection to other Black males thus could be important in processes linking them to positive adaptation and healthy development.

There is some research that tests the processes that link mentoring to positive or potentially negative outcomes in Black boys. Evidence in support of this pathway did not differ significantly across male and female study participants, thus supporting its relevance to Black male youth in particular. A longitudinal study of the informal mentoring relationships of rural African-American high school seniors found that mentoring relationships with more instrumental and emotional support and affectively positive interactions predicted less anger, rule-breaking behavior, and aggression in youth about one year later, 46 while controlling for earlier problem behaviors, youth gender, intervention dosage, and first choice of mentor.

The authors tested these associations separately for boys and girls in the study and found no differences.

Mentoring to Manhood – Community Youth Advance

Thus, these findings stand for male participants. Some qualitative research findings are in line with the idea that emotionally close relationships between youth and mentors may be an important mechanism. Some evidence also suggests that information and guidance provided by mentors may promote positive outcomes for Black male youth. Informed by needs assessments discussed below, Grimes 47 provided suggestions for a culturally relevant social marketing campaign to recruit African-American men to serve as mentors as well as suggestions on how to overcome the identified barriers.

Theoretically, resources such as these could be valuable for ensuring that mentoring programs intended to serve Black male youth are more effective in reaching and engaging these youth, implemented with high quality, and sustained over time. The Mentoring Effect 49 study revealed that approximately two in three of the to year-old young people surveyed in this nationally representative study report having had a mentor while growing up. It is unclear if Black male youth are more or less likely to report having a mentor in their lives.

Other research, however, suggests possible gaps in access to certain kinds of mentors for Black male youth. In a study of 1, African-American youth between the ages of 12 and 18, it was found that girls were more likely to report an unrelated mentor in their community e. Furthermore, Black girls reported more grandparent involvement in discussions about peer relationships compared to their Black male counterparts.

A potential factor to consider in reaching Black male youth is recruiting Black men to serve as mentors in order to provide Black boys with successful models from their community. Two needs assessments were conducted to understand the barriers for African-American men serving as volunteers in youth mentoring programs.

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