The invisible hand in youth mentoring: parent, mentor and agency perspective on parental role
Basualdo-Delmonico, Antoinette M.
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Youth mentoring has become a popular program model promoting positive youth development and outpacing available research to guide all the programmatic growth. The systemic model of mentoring (Keller, 2005) expands the traditional mentor-youth dyadic focus of program development and evaluation, taking into account other important contextual and influencing factors including the role of parents, program staff and the larger agency. However, there remains an absence of literature that examines what is known about parental involvement and the role parents play in their child's formal mentoring relationship. This study explores the nature of parental involvement in formal community-based youth mentoring relationships. An analysis was conducted of in-depth qualitative interviews collected at multiple data points from parents and mentors of 30 mentoring matches, selected from a larger longitudinal study of youth mentoring relationships, and one-time in-depth interviews with 12 staff members from the agencies supervising the mentoring matches conducted for the purposes of this study (a total of 162 transcripts). Thematic coding and narrative summaries were utilized to develop themes that were compared within and across cases. This analysis yielded three main findings regarding the nature of parental involvement in mentoring relationships and the beliefs surrounding it, namely 1) the presence of distinct assumptions and expectations held by participants regarding parents and their involvement in mentoring relationships, 2) the identification by participants of five parental roles that were both expected of and actually performed by parents in their child's mentoring relationship, and 3) the identification of three types of parent-mentor interactions, which contributed to the characterization of parent-mentor relationships based on a level of communication and a degree of closeness. These study findings bring the perspectives of parents to the forefront in the examination of parental involvement in mentoring, a topic that is only beginning to gain greater attention within mentoring literature and research. Together these findings suggest that programs may be missing opportunities to tap into an important yet undervalued resource of parents, in supporting and strengthening the youth-mentor relationship.