A youth-driven approach, however, needs to be balanced with structure and goals. Favorable outcomes are most likely to occur when youth experience both structure and support from their mentors.
Relationship duration represents another key determinant of effectiveness. For example, in a reanalysis of the BBBS CBM program, Jean Grossman and Jean Rhodes found that positive effects on youth outcomes became progressively stronger as relationships persisted for longer periods of time. Relative to controls, youth whose relationships terminated within a year appeared to derive the fewest benefits, and those in short matches (i.e., terminating within the first 3-6 months) actually suffered declines in reported levels of feelings of self-worth and perceived scholastic competence. For youth who were in matches that lasted more than a year, however, positive effects were evident on levels of self-worth, perceived social acceptance and scholastic competence, parental relationship quality, school value, and levels of both drug and alcohol use. Likewise, other research has shown that mentoring relationship duration is predictive of youth’s ability to achieve goals, and natural relationships that endure for multiple years have the strongest effects.
Studies of both informal and formal mentoring, including meta-analyses, have highlighted the importance of relationship intensity, indicated by how often mentors and youth spend time together.
Mentors’ acceptance and attunement, as well as their ability to adapt their approach based on their mentee’s needs, are important indicators of relationship quality and effectiveness. Moreover, relationships that are youth-centered, as opposed to being driven primarily by the interests or expectations of the mentor, have been found to predict greater relationship quality, as well as improvements youth’s other relationships with adults.