The effects of mentoring interventions in reducing crime

Mentoring is usually intended to be a method of both reducing re-offending and increasing positive life outcomes such as education, training and employment. The purpose of this summary is to elaborate what has been learned from past evaluations to estimate the effect of mentoring on reoffending, presented in a Campbell Systematic Review.

This analysis of 39 studies on four outcomes measuring delinquency or closely related outcomes suggests mentoring for high-risk youth has a modest positive effect for delinquency, aggression, drug use, and achievement. However, the effect sizes varied by outcome with larger effects for delinquency and aggression than for drug use and achievement. Also, effect sizes varied more for delinquency and aggression than for drug use or academic achievement. Effects tended to be stronger when emotional support was a key process in mentoring interventions, and when professional development was an explicit motive for participation of the mentors. While these findings support viewing mentoring as a useful approach for intervention to lessen delinquency risk or involvement, due to limited description of content of mentoring programs and substantial variation in what is included as part of mentoring efforts detracts from that view. The valuable features and most promising approaches can not be stated with any certainty. In fact, there is a remarkable lack of description of key features or basic program organization that is typically provided in empirical reports of effects with not much increase in quality of reports over the time period studied here. Given the popularity of this approach, the promise of benefits should be seen as a strong argument for a concerted effort through quality randomized trials to specify the theoretical and practical components for effective mentoring with high-risk youth.

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