Decades of research show that high-quality relationships are essential to young people’s growth, learning, and thriving. This is true for all youth, but especially for those young people who face serious personal and systemic challenges in their lives and the world around them. Studies show that youth who have stable and healthy youth-adult relationships are more likely to stay in school, experience academic gains, exhibit fewer behavior problems, demonstrate higher socioemotional competence, and be resilient in the face of persistent challenges.
Through healthy relationships with adults, young people learn and strengthen a wide range of skills and competencies. This happens through conversations, role modeling, teaching, coaching, reflecting, and collaborative problem-solving in naturally occurring mentoring relationships with non-parental adults (e.g., coach, neighbor), as well as in program-based relationships with adults via structured mentoring (e.g., Big Brothers Big Sisters). Program-based mentoring has become a popular prevention strategy in diverse settings (e.g., school, community) and implemented in many formats (e.g., one-on-one, group, in-person, virtual) to support youth with different needs, including those who are in foster care, members of military families, immigrants, at risk for or involved in the juvenile legal system, or reentering the community after incarceration.
For more than 10 years, AIR has been a leader in high-quality research on youth mentoring initiatives. Much of this research was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice programs. With evaluations of a wide range of youth mentoring organizations, we have contributed to evidence on effective mentoring programming. In partnership with nationally known scholars, AIR researchers conducted multi-site, rigorous mixed-method studies. using our expertise in positive youth development, criminology, public health and prevention, implementation science, and causal methods. AIR studies have contributed to our understanding of implementation quality and key program supports to achieve positive outcomes of mentoring on youth.