Let’s Dive Into the Science of
Mentorship is about connection and building healthy relationships that last.
The equation is all about helping each other learn and grow while finding the magic within ourselves to unlock our full potential.
If you’re a mentor, the rewards for you are endless and for your mentee, the benefits are measurable.
Research has come a long way and we now have the scientific data to explain why mentorship works and how significantly it impacts the lives of youth.
Mentorship = Resilience
When you mentor a young person, you’re providing a stable, healthy and committed relationship with an adult. You build resilience.
According to the research, this type of relationship can protect a child from the effects of toxic stress experienced when living through childhood adversities.
But what is toxic stress?
Defined by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, it’s the harmful impact of ongoing adversities on a person’s learning, behavior, and health throughout life that can arise from negative childhood experiences such as trauma, mental health, and/or family economic hardship.
This kind of prolonged stress can disrupt the development of brain, as well as other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.
One way mentorship has been proven to benefit child is by building resilience.
Neuroscience tells us that these nurturing and caring relationships help buffer the impact of adversities on a child’s developing brain. It also tells us that resilient children and youth grow to be happier and healthier adults.
So, when you become a mentor, what you’re really doing is helping a child access their resilience, directly improving their life.
Measurably, increased resilience means improved outcomes in each of the following categories:
- Social Emotional Competence
- Mental Health & Wellbeing
- Educational Engagement & Employment Readiness
When you volunteer and become a mentor, you’re helping with each of these factors.
1. Mentorship = Social Emotional Competence
There are many skills we teach in a classrooms, but don’t translate well in that setting. One of those important skills is social emotional competence.
Having a mentor in a young person’s life allows them to grow in a positive environment where they can grow into themselves.
Mentorship = Relationship skills: It helps a young person communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.
Mentorship = Social awareness: Your support will help youth understand the perspectives of others and empathize with them, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Mentorship = Responsible decision making: Mentorship means youth make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety, and social norms.
Mentorship = Self-management: You’re helping a young person effectively manage stress, control impulses, and motivate themself to set and achieve goals.
Mentorship = Self-awareness: A more resilient young person knows more about their strengths and limitations.
2. Mentorship = Mental Health & Wellbeing
A part of the equation for strong mental health and wellbeing in youth is having consistent and positive relationships. As a mentor, you help foster this.
Mentorship = Positive identity: You can help a young person believe in their own self-worth, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.”
Mentorship = Mental wellness: You’re helping youth discover a sense of belonging, meaning, and connection.
Mentorship = Social inclusion & empowerment: Mentorship ensures your mentee feels connected, valued, safe and respected by the community.
3. Mentorship = Educational Engagement & Employment Readiness
Youth who have a mentor in their life are more likely to succeed in their education and future employability.
Mentorship = School connectedness: When a young person has a mentor, they become more engaged at school, gaining a more positive attitude and behaviours in their learning environments.
Mentorship = Commitment to learning: Your mentorship helps a young person understand the lasting importance of learning and build a belief in their own abilities.
Mentorship = Enhanced constructive use of time: You are providing opportunities — outside of school — to learn and develop new skills and interests with others.
In the summer 2020, Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada (BBBSC) partnered with researchers from York University (Drs. Craig and Pepler) and the University of Victoria (Dr. Ames) on a collaborative research project, Building Better Connections. The aim was to help BBBS understand how mentees were functioning in terms of their mental health and relationships during COVID-19 in comparison to non-BBBS youth.
The findings were clear:
- 70% of Big Brother Big Sister mentees who had regular contact with their mentors reported feeling more supported and less isolated, worried or anxious than non-BBBS youth.
- The more contact a mentee had with their mentor, the less worried or anxious they felt about COVID.
- Non-BBBS youth were more likely to report significant symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- BBBS mentees reported better mental health while facing equal or greater adversities than their non-mentored peers.
These significant findings suggest being a BBBS mentee may provide protective factors against some mental health problems and point to the preventive and protective power of mentoring.
Our research is aligned with the other national research studies that have proven that mentoring programs can increase positive mental health, increase cultural connectedness and support academic commitment.
Additional research by Search Institute suggest by volunteering to be a mentor, one person can have significant and profound impact on the life of a child facing adversities.
Current research demonstrates that young people are most likely to flourish when they are embedded in a web of relationships with supportive, caring adults.
This is the essences of Big Brothers Big Sisters programs: providing the relationships that young people need to succeed. As a Mentor, you can help a young person discover who they are, develop and practice skills to shape their own lives and learn how to engage with and understand the world around them.
Globally renowned youth development researchers have affirmed:
“After decades of forming hypotheses, conducting surveys, crafting and rewriting definitions, analyzing data, and writing journal articles, Search Institute researchers and practitioners have arrived at a surprisingly simple conclusion: nothing—nothing—has more impact in the life of a child than positive relationships,”
Peter Benson, former Search Institute president and CEO.
The research is in. The math makes sense. The only thing missing from this equation is YOU.