Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Mentoring programs are increasingly popular interventions for promoting positive development in Black youth from high risk environments. Cross-age peer mentoring refers to an older youth serving as a mentor for a younger mentee. Although not as widely studied as adult mentoring, this relationship has been found to have a beneficial effect for both the mentor and mentee. The current study seeks to better illuminate this bidirectional benefit by focusing on one half of the relationship—the experience of cross age peer mentoring by Black American mentors from low income communities. This is an important untapped area of study as peer mentoring interventions have the potential to have an expansive impact affecting both older and younger youth. The current study examined how the helper therapy principle (a theory stating that individuals who take on a helping role experience positive development due to being in that role) related to mentors’ experience of the mentor-mentee bond. The study also examined whether mentors’ perceived bond with their mentee mediated the relation between the helper therapy principle and the outcomes of future expectations, ethnic identity, school connectedness, and beliefs about aggression.

A sample of 48 high school aged mentors (Mage=16.49; 62% female) were recruited from four low income Chicago neighborhoods and completed three waves of data. In collaboration with non-profit organizations and Chicago Public Schools (CPS), researchers recruited and trained high school students to serve as mentors for middle school students from the same neighborhoods and SES backgrounds. Baseline, six-month check-in, and end-of-intervention (9-12 months) assessments were used to assess the effects of the mentoring. PROCESS bootstrapping mediation analyses revealed several significant findings including that higher feelings of contribution (a desire to positively impact one’s community) led to increased school connectedness (b=0.27, t (40)= 2.09, p<.05) and future expectations (b=0.31, t (42)= 2.31, p<.05) at the end of intervention. However, the small sample size made it difficult to find significance for many of the proposed relations. Consequently, power analyses were conducted using the Power Analysis and Sample Size (PASS) software to provide a sense of what sample size would be needed to detect significance. Overall, the majority of relations had between small and medium effect sizes (Preacher & Kelley, 2011), suggesting that future studies will require a sample size of around 200 youth to potentially find significance.

Although exploratory, the current study has important implications. The cultural capital that exists in communities of color was acknowledged in the current study by harnessing the social capital of Black youth and empowering them to serve as the main agents of change within an intervention. However, continued exploration of the experience of Black youth mentors and how they may develop due to their role as helpers is needed to better facilitate the strengths of Black youth residing in high risk environments. This is necessary since the current intervention model can be a cost effective, community-based, and self-sustaining mechanism. Developing prosocial relationships with peers may be a way to achieve these dynamics and encourage healthy development among Black American youth from low income, urban communities.

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