Mentoring Youth at High Risk: The Perspectives of Professional Mentors

Davielle Lakind, J. Mark Eddy, Adrienne Zell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Youth mentoring programs rely largely on volunteers, but youth facing significant risks may be poor candidates for volunteer-based interventions. Full-time “professional” mentors in highly structured programs may be better suited to partner effectively with such youth and their families, but few studies examine professional mentoring interventions. Because of mentoring’s inherent flexibility, mentors’ role conceptualizations can profoundly influence the nature of their work. Serving as a professional mentor may have important implications for how mentors conceptualize and perform their role.

Objective: This qualitative study examined the role conceptions of professional mentors serving at-risk youth.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with mentors were transcribed, coded, and subjected to thematic analysis.

Results: Mentors described the importance of “professionalism” in prioritizing mentoring, expending considerable effort, and performing difficult or unpleasant tasks. They reported that serving multiple children full-time enabled them to rapidly build expertise, that credibility and authority granted them because of their professional status facilitated their work across multiple key contexts, and that their expertise and long-term commitment facilitated the development of deep relationships. Mentors perceived their role as highly challenging but reported high self-efficacy. They described high multifaceted organizational support, a community for youth, and an individualized child focus.

Conclusions: A mentoring model delivered by experienced professional mentors may hold promise for working with youth at high risk. The role conceptualizations of mentors and the organizational culture within which mentors work may be important in helping youth succeed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-727
Number of pages23
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 11 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Mentoring
  • Preventive intervention
  • Qualitative research
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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