Proof of enduring value of an old mentoring idea

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Girls who have a relationship with a Big Sister mentor are four times less likely to bully, fight, lie or express anger than those without a mentor, a recent study has revealed. Boys with a Big Brother mentor have fewer emotional problems, according to the same study commissioned by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

 

The five-year $1.7 million youth mentoring study is tracking the progress of 1,000 children and teenagers registered with Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across Canada. The research team is led by Dr. David DeWit, a senior research scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in London, Ontario, and Dr. Ellen Lipman, a psychiatrist and Professor at McMaster University.

 

The findings provide hard evidence that boys and girls who are mentored are considerably less likely to display negative behaviours and emotions and significantly more likely to be confident in their academic abilities.

 

In addition to better behaviour around bullying, fighting and lying, the mentored girls displayed greater social skills. The girls with a volunteer mentor were also two-and-a-half times more likely to be confident in their academic abilities.     

 

For boys, the study shows that having a Big Brother mentor is a particularly effective remedy for emotional problems. Boys with a Big Brother were shown to be three times less likely than those without a mentor to suffer peer pressure anxiety, such as worrying about what other children think or say about them.

 

Mentored boys were also two times less likely to develop negative conducts like bullying, fighting, lying, cheating or lose their temper. They were also more likely to think that school is fun and that doing well academically is important.

 

“These findings only represent the tip of the iceberg. This research is on-going. Over time we expect to acquire the knowledge to tailor mentoring to the individual needs of children based on their gender, age, personal history, family circumstances and cultural background,” explains Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.

  

“We will also be able to better manage the expectations of volunteers, parents and the mentored children. The result will be longer more powerful mentoring relationships with even more successful outcomes.”

 

The organization’s president describes mentoring as not only a practical and a proven way to make a crucial difference in the lives of vulnerable children, but also a way for individuals to take direct action to help children in need of guidance.

 

There are currently 25,000 Big Brother and Big Sister volunteers working in communities across Canada. But more are always needed. In Toronto alone, there are 130 children and teenagers waiting to be matched with a “Big”.

 

One of the events of the Big Brother Big Sisters centennial year will be April’s Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Summit in Ottawa. One hundred of Canada’s most socially engaged teenagers


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