Girls get emotional, social empowerment from mentors

April 3rd, 2009 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 3 (IANS) Girls derived strong emotional support and improved their psychosocial functioning with the help of female mentors, besides developing new skills and confidence, says a new study.
The study examined the processes in the adolescent girls’ relationship with their female mentors from the perspective of the former.

Each adolescent-mentor pair was interviewed separately and then together. Their recorded comments were analysed and revealed that girls benefit from both skill development and gain vital emotional support.

“In the absence of much research, many have assumed that boys are mostly interested in doing activities with male mentors more focussed on problem solving whereas girls are more interested in developing emotionally-focussed relationships,” said Renee Spencer, assistant professor at Boston University School of Social Work.

“However we found that these girls’ relationships with their mentors offered both emotional support and opportunities to develop skills and confidence in shared activities, doing homework together or learning to sing.”

Emotional support was a dominant theme, with some girls saying “I can tell her all my secrets” and “we talk about everything”, while the mentors commented about “she knows she can talk to me about anything”.

The study involved in-depth interviews of 12 pairs of girls, referred to as protegees, and women who had been in a mentoring relationships for between 2.5 to 11 years. They were in a formal mentoring programme established through the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.

The girls, racially and ethnically diverse, ranged in age from 13 to 17 years, and were referred to the agency by friends and family members or child protective services case workers.

The mentors, mostly single women, were white and 28 to 55-years of age. They met their protegees with parental consent, regularly three to four times per month for at least a year and routinely corresponded through e-mails and phone conversations, said a Boston university release.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Primary Prevention.

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