Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $299,999)
This program seeks to enhance what is understood about mentoring as a prevention strategy for youth who are at risk of involvement or already involved in the juvenile justice system. While mentoring appears to be a promising intervention for youth, more evaluation work is needed to further highlight the components of a mentoring program that are most effective. Research is also needed to demonstrate the specific components of mentoring programs that have a significant impact in reducing juvenile delinquency and offending. This program funds research studies that will inform the design and delivery of mentoring programs. OJJDP expects that the results of this effort will encourage a more effective utilization of resources as well as enhance the implementation of evidence-based best practices for juvenile mentoring.
Can program-based mentoring actually shape youth's long-term trajectories into adulthood and, if so, what are the mechanisms through which this occurs? The proposed study will conduct one of the first rigorous investigations of this question through a 20-year follow-up of Public/Private Venture's landmark impact study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) community-based mentoring program. This randomized controlled study included 1,138 10- to 16-year-old youth participating in 8 BBBS programs nationwide. At an 18-month follow-up, relative to their non-mentored peers, mentored youth reported better outcomes in substance use and truancy, aggressive behavior, relationships with parents and peers, and academic attitudes and performance. The two-year study's goals are: (1) to rigorously determine the long-term effects of the BBBS program on criminal offending, educational attainment, and employment and to clarify the mechanisms through which any such effects occur (e.g., through shorter-term effects on juvenile delinquency); and (2) to summarize the study's findings for OJJDP and the broader mentoring and delinquency prevention fields. An extensive effort will be made to contact all participants from the original study using detailed contact information (including addresses, parent social security numbers, dates of birth, etc.) that was retained for all participants. Consented participants will complete a brief 15-minute survey that asks about the length and quality of their relationship(s) with mentors with whom they were matched through the BBBS program (if any), juvenile delinquency/system involvement, and educational attainment and employment during adulthood. Data on adult criminal offending will be obtained through public records searches. Intent-to-treat and treatment-on-the treated (using treatment group assignment as an instrument variable) analyses will assess long-term program effects and the extent to which these are mediated by 18-month outcomes as well as match length and strength. Results will be summarized in detailed progress reports, a final integrative report, and technical articles suitable for publication in academic journals. Progress toward goals will be measured through careful tracking of objectives associated with each goal, such as number of participants for whom up-to-date contact information is able to be obtained and number of technical articles submitted for publication. The study will be led by a pair of seasoned researchers with deep expertise in mentoring and solid experience conducting large-scale mentoring evaluations and follow-up studies. Two expert consultants with significant experience with the original study data set and the investigation of mentoring relationships within the BBBS program will serve as advisors and collaborators on technical articles.