Mentoring

Impact on crime
Evidence quality 4
Effect
How it works
cog full Evidence quality 3
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 3
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 3
Implementation
What it costs
cost full Evidence quality 0
Economic cost
* This is based on the strongest scores from a number of systematic reviews

What is the focus of the intervention?

Mentoring involves interactions between two individuals over an extended period of time, and an inequality of experience or knowledge between the mentor and mentee, with the mentor possessing the greater share. The idea is that the mentee is in a position to imitate and benefit from the knowledge, skill, ability, or experience of the mentor. The mentor may provide practical assistance, such as with job applications, teaching or training, as well as emotional support for the mentee to help increase self-esteem and confidence. Mentoring may be between a youth and an adult, or between peers.

This narrative is based on one review of 46 studies which focused on juvenile delinquents, and a second review based on 18 studies which focused on general offending. A third review based on 8 studies of mentoring provides information in the implementation and economics sections. The crime outcomes measured in the reviews were delinquency (e.g. anti-social behaviour) and reoffending.

EFFECT

How effective is it?

Overall, the evidence suggests that mentoring has reduced crime, but there is some evidence that it has increased crime.

The overall evidence comes from Review 1 based on 46 studies. A meta-analysis of outcomes from 25 of the 46 studies showed a statistically significant reduction in reoffending amongst participants who received mentoring compared to those who did not.

While 14 of these 25 studies showed a significant reduction in reoffending, 3 studies showed a significant increase. The other 8 studies showed no significant effect on reoffending.

Review 1 also tested to see if there was a correlation between the effect size and study methodology, finding no statistically significant effect. Studies of arguably weaker methodology found similar levels of reoffending to those of stronger methodologies. The review also found no significant difference between the level of reoffending of participants and whether mentoring was carried out as a stand-alone intervention or as part of a package. This was in contrast to Review 2, which found that mentoring was significantly more effective when implemented as part of a suite of interventions, rather than alone.

How strong is the evidence?

The review was sufficiently systematic that most forms of bias that could influence the study conclusions can be ruled out. 

Review 1 considered many elements of validity, conducted relevant statistical analyses and used quality assurance to ensure the accuracy of the information collected from primary studies. It also took into account the potential effects of publication bias, and only combined studies of similar methodological quality. The review also took into account the possible effect of statistical outliers.

MECHANISM

How does it work?

Review 1 noted that mentoring may help to reduce crime by diverting individuals from criminal activities and attitudes, as well as by fostering healthy or positive development. Review 1 identifies four processes as central to mentoring in order to encourage this healthy development: 

  1. the mentee identifies with the mentor which can help with motivation and behaviour;
  2. providing information or teaching to help the mentee manage social, educational, legal, family, and peer challenges; 
  3. advocacy for the mentee in various systems and settings; and 
  4. emotional support and friendship to promote self-efficacy, confidence, and sense of self-worth.


The review tested whether certain components of mentoring programmes had a positive effect in reducing crime, finding that significant reductions were found when advocacy and emotional support components were present.

Review 2 noted that  having a mentor might reduce the likelihood of reoffending by providing direct assistance (e.g. helping fill in job applications) and indirect support (e.g. acting as a positive role model). Echoing Review 1, it also noted that the time spent with the mentor might reduce the opportunity that the mentee has to offend or might help to break up previously established delinquent networks. Review 2 also noted that mentoring is usually intended as method of both reducing reoffending and increasing positive life outcomes such as greater levels of education, training and employment. In a test of the relationship between mentor and mentee, Review 2 found that having a longer duration per contact saw significantly greater reductions in reoffending than programmes with shorter durations of contact. The review suggested that longer durations of contact allow a stronger relationship to be built between mentor and mentee.

MODERATORS

In which contexts does it work best?

Review 1 found that mentoring produced a statistically significant reduction in delinquency, aggression and drug use, and a significantly positive effect on academic achievement for mentees. The review also tested to see if a number of key features had an effect on reoffending rates, including:

  1. selectivity in deciding which participants to include (high risk versus universal or no selectivity); 
  2. explicit attention to the presence of four key processes:  modelling, emotional support, advocacy, and teaching; 
  3. whether or not mentoring was a stand-alone approach or was undertaken along with other components; 
  4. the motivation of the mentors in participating; and 
  5. the extent to which quality of work and fidelity were assessed or emphasised.


It was found that only the motivation of the mentor had significance – reductions in crime were significantly larger when mentor motivation was based on the mentor’s professional development.

Review 2 focussed on adults and young people, so was able to test whether there was a difference in the efficacy of mentoring by age. It found that mentoring had a more desirable, but not statistically significant, effect on reoffending for younger as opposed to older mentees (although exact age ranges were not specified).

However, when testing at which point in the criminal justice process mentoring worked best, it was found that the only time mentoring had a significant benefit on reoffending, was if it was conducted pre-sentence. When mentees were chosen for being 'at risk of offending behaviour', or were post-sentence, mentoring had no statistically significant effect on reoffending.  

IMPLEMENTATION

What can be said about implementing this initiative?

Review 1 did not find any training, implementation, or dosage parameters which can be consistently identified as important in mentoring programmes. There were also few indications of what is considered essential or critical for mentoring or helpful in distinguishing mentoring from other models of supportive relationships and approaches.

However, mentoring was defined by the following four characteristics:

  1. interaction between two individuals over an extended period of time;
  2. inequality of experience, knowledge, or power between the mentor and mentee (recipient), with the mentor possessing the greater share;
  3. the mentee being in a position to imitate and benefit from the knowledge, skill, ability, or experience of the mentor;
  4. the absence of the role inequality that typifies other helping relationships and is marked by professional training, certification, or predetermined status differences such as parent-child or teacher-student relationships.


Further analyses suggested that mentoring may be particularly valuable for those at risk or already involved in delinquency or related issues.

Review 2 suggests that the mentor should provide guidance, advice and encouragement that would help to develop the competence and character of the mentee.

The mentee is usually perceived to be ‘at-risk of offending behaviour’ for various reasons, including individual factors (e.g. disruptive behaviour in school, offending, substance abuse etc.) and/or social circumstances (e.g. lone-parent family, socially excluded etc.). Review 2 also noted a number of implementation factors which were associated with stronger desirable effects on reoffending. Mentoring interventions involving at least weekly contact between mentor and mentee, and those where the average duration time per contact between mentor and mentee was longer, tended to be more successful than less intensive and less frequent interventions.

The review found that, by itself, mentoring had little effect on reoffending. Only when mentoring was offered alongside other interventions (such as ensuring employment or education) was there a desirable impact on reoffending. Also, mentoring was more successful with persons arrested by the police rather than young people ‘at risk of offending’ or those on probation (although numbers in this last group were small). Any beneficial impact of mentoring on reoffending was limited to the time period that mentoring was being offered. The authors go on to state that these results suggest that mentoring could be implemented as a valuable component of a long-term intervention strategy with people who have been in contact with the police, but do not have a long criminal history.

Review 3 gave some specific information about the inputs of different mentoring programmes, which varied significantly. One programme required mentors to have 16-20 hours of training and instruction before helping mentees. Another programme saw mentors with a case-load of approximately 10 young people each with 50 hours of face-to-face contact over 7 months. A further programme, which mentored young people after release from custody, required 7 contacts with the mentor over 12-18 months. A further study was much more intense, requiring 2-6 hours of contact per week between mentors and mentees during the first year.

 

ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

How much might it cost?

Review 3 was the only review to provide any information on the costs or benefits of mentoring programmes. All financial information was only available at individual study level, and no synthesis was attempted due to a lack of information from the studies in the review. One study based in hospital emergency departments in California, USA noted that mentors each received a total payment of $240 for their time, including time spent on training and mentoring.

Another study based in Australia calculated the programme costs, including staff time, office space, transport, and other administrative costs. They also included volunteer time, estimated at AUD$16 per hour. They calculated the annual cost for each mentee in 2004 as AUD$6,264. The cost of mentoring 2,200 vulnerable, ‘at risk’ young people over a number of years was estimated at AUD $40 million, while the associated costs of their predicted adult offending was AUD $3.3 billion. Therefore, the mentoring programme would be cost effective if it prevented only 1.3% of mentees from offending.

General considerations

  • There is often limited description of the content of mentoring programmes, and substantial variation in what is included as part of these programmes. This means it can be difficult to understand what contributes to any successes or failures of specific mentoring interventions.

Summary

Overall, the evidence suggests that mentoring has reduced crime, but there is some evidence that it has increased crime.

A significant reduction in reoffending was seen amongst participants of mentoring programmes compared to those who were not on any programmes. Mentoring is based on encouraging healthy development of mentees, providing them with direct and indirect support, and potentially reducing the time they can engage in criminal activities. Mentoring programmes where the mentor and mentee meet more often and spend more time together produced the highest reductions in offending behaviour.

The evidence suggests that mentoring could be a valuable diversionary tool if it is used as a component of a long-term intervention strategy, particularly with people who have been in contact with the police but do not have a long criminal history.

Ratings for Individual Reviews

Review 1

How it works
cog full Evidence quality 3
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 3
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 3
Implementation
What it costs
cost empty Evidence quality 0
Economic cost

Review 2

How it works
cog full Evidence quality 2
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 2
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 2
Implementation
What it costs
cost empty Evidence quality 0
Economic cost

Review 3

How it works
cog full Evidence quality 1
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 1
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 1
Implementation
What it costs
cost full Evidence quality 0
Economic cost

Resources

Review 1: Tolan, P., Henry, D., Schoeny, M., Bass, A., Lovegrove, P. and Nichols, E. (2013) 'Mentoring Interventions to Affect Juvenile Delinquency and Associated Problems: A Systematic Review', Campbell Systematic Reviews 2013:10, DOI: 10.4073/csr.2013.10

Review 2: Jolliffe, D. and Farrington, D. P. (2008) 'The Influence of Mentoring on Reoffending', Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention

Review 3: Edwards, P., Jarrett, C., Perkins, C., Beecher, D., Steinbach, R. and Roberts, I. (2015) 'Mediation, mentoring and peer support to reduce youth knife and gun-enabled violence: a systematic review', Cochrane Injuries Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 

 
This narrative was prepared by UCL Jill Dando Institute and was co-funded by the College of Policing and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  ESRC Grant title: 'University Consortium for Evidence-Based Crime Reduction'.  Grant Ref: ES/L007223/1.


Uploaded 25/06/16

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