This project was supported by Grant #2012-MU-FX-0001 awarded to Thomas Keller and Renée Spencer by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. We extend our gratitude to Imogen Evans who made significant contributions to early phases of this work. We deeply appreciate our partner program sites who were excellent collaborators and allowed us to look at some more difficult topics in mentoring. We also offer our heartfelt thanks to the study participants who took the time to share their important experiences.
Journal of Community Psychology
Social work with youth, Youth -- Mental health services, Young adults -- Mental health services, Mentoring
This study sought to examine how social class bias may be enacted by mentors and mentoring program staff within community-based youth mentoring relationships and how these biases may influence the mentoring relationship. A narrative thematic analysis was conducted with interviews from mentors, mentees' parents/caregivers, and mentoring program staff representing 36 matches participating in a larger, prospective, mixed-methods study examining factors associated with early match closures. Findings indicate that although some mentors were able to partner with the youth and family to effectively navigate challenges related to the family's economic circumstances, other mentors and some mentoring program staff held deficit views of the youth and their family that appeared to be at least partially rooted in negative social class-based assumptions about attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, we observed tendencies on the part of some mentors and program staff toward (a) deficit-based views of families and youth, (b) individual-level attributions for the family's economic circumstances and blaming of caregivers, and (c) perceiving mentors as being underappreciated by the youth's caregiver. These deficit perspectives contributed to the minimization of parent/caregiver voice in the mentoring process and negative interpretations of parent/caregiver and, in some cases, youth attitudes and behaviors.
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Published as: Spencer, R., McCormack, M. J., Drew, A. L., Gowdy, G., & Keller, T. E. (2021). (Not) minding the gap: A qualitative interview study of how social class bias can influence youth mentoring relationships. Journal of Community Psychology, jcop.22737. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22737