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Promising Program Seal

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

A community mentoring program which matches a volunteer adult mentor to an at-risk child or adolescent to delay or reduce antisocial behaviors; improve academic success, attitudes and behaviors, peer and family relationships; strengthen self-concept; and provide social and cultural enrichment.

  • Kristin Romens
  • Director of Program Development
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters National Office
  • 230 North 13th Street
  • Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • (215) 567-7000
  • (215) 567-0394
  • Alcohol
  • Antisocial-aggressive Behavior
  • Close Relationships with Parents
  • Close Relationships with Peers
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Positive Social/Prosocial Behavior
  • Truancy - School Attendance

    Program Type

    • Mentoring - Tutoring

    Program Setting

    • Community (e.g., religious, recreation)

    Continuum of Intervention

    • Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)

    A community mentoring program which matches a volunteer adult mentor to an at-risk child or adolescent to delay or reduce antisocial behaviors; improve academic success, attitudes and behaviors, peer and family relationships; strengthen self-concept; and provide social and cultural enrichment.

      Population Demographics

      Big Brothers Big Sisters is implemented with disadvantaged youth from single-parent households. Youth are predominantly aged 10-14 (minimum age is 6 and maximum age is 18). It has been shown to be effective for both males and females.


      • Late Childhood (5-11) - K/Elementary
      • Early Adolescence (12-14) - Middle School
      • Late Adolescence (15-18) - High School


      • Male and Female

      Gender Specific Findings

      • Male
      • Female


      • All Race/Ethnicity

      Race/Ethnicity Specific Findings

      • White
      • Hispanic or Latino
      • Other

      Subgroup Details

      Subgroup analyses showed different results for white males, white females, minority males, and minority females. Minority males showed stronger results for initiating drug use, minority females showed greater program effects on academic outcomes, and white males improved more than the other groups on family relationship outcomes.

      Of the subgroups, only minority males showed a significant difference for initiating drug use, with 70% reduced likelihood compared to minority control individuals. Minority females significantly improved on perceived ability to complete schoolwork, number of times skipped class, and number of times skipped a day of school, though white males improved on perceived ability to complete schoolwork and white females showed significance for number of times skipped class and number of times skipped a day of school. For family relationships outcomes, white males were the only group to improve significantly for parental relationship, trust, and communication. White males were also the only group to increase the number of total attended social and cultural events. Of the peer relationships outcomes, only minority males showed significant improvement on emotional support.

      • Individual
      • Peer
      • School
      • Family
      • Neighborhood/Community
      Risk Factors
      • Individual: Early initiation of antisocial behavior, Early initiation of drug use*, Favorable attitudes towards antisocial behavior, Favorable attitudes towards drug use
      • Peer: Interaction with antisocial peers
      • Family: Family conflict/violence, Family history of problem behavior
      • School: Low school commitment and attachment*, Poor academic performance*
      • Neighborhood/Community: Extreme economic disadvantage
      Protective Factors
      • Individual: Academic self-efficacy, Prosocial behavior*, Prosocial involvement
      • Family: Attachment to parents*
      • Neighborhood/Community: Opportunities for prosocial involvement, Rewards for prosocial involvement

      *Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

      See also: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Logic Model (PDF)

      The Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) program matches adult volunteer mentors with an at-risk child, with the expectation that a caring and supportive relationship will develop. Mentors are selected, screened, and matched by BBBSA staff, and staff monitor the relationship and maintain contact with the mentor, child, and parent/guardian throughout the matched relationship. Matches are made based on shared goals and interests of the child and adult volunteer. Mentors are expected to meet with the child at least 3-5 hours per week for a period of 12 months or longer. Ongoing case management by BBBSA staff provides supervision of the relationship, and can provide advice and guidance to the mentor, as well as support and encouragement.

      Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a community mentoring program which matches a volunteer adult mentor to a child, with the expectation that a caring and supportive relationship will develop. The most important component in this program is the match. Once matches are made, they are continually monitored and supervised by a professional BBBS staff member. Relationships between mentor and child are one-to-one, they meet three to five hours per week, on a weekly basis, over the course of a year or longer. Generalized activities of the relationship are related to the goals that are set initially when the match is made. These goals are identified from the extensive case manager interview held with the parent/guardian and with the child. Beyond the establishment of a close relationship between mentor and child, other goals might relate to school attendance and academic performance, relationships with other children and siblings, general hygiene, learning new skills or developing a hobby. These goals are updated by the case manager as progress is made and circumstances change over time. Case managers are there for guidance, and suggest rather than dictate activities in which matched pairs are to engage. Case managers use the Standards and Required Procedures for One-To-One Service to outline the schedule of contacts made with the volunteer, as well as with the parent and/or child. More frequent contact is made with the mentor and parent during the early stages of the match (once a month) and then tapers to once every three months after one year and throughout the rest of the duration of the match. At least quarterly, the case manager is in touch with the child to learn of the youth's experiences, in order to determine how the relationship is developing and to provide an opportunity to give advice and guidance around any issues the volunteer might have, as well as to encourage and support various activities. Most contacts are made over the phone.

      The social control theory posits that attachments to prosocial others, commitment to socially appropriate goals, and involvement in conventional activities restrain youth from engaging in delinquent activities or other problem behaviors. Youth are more likely to resist involvement in non-conventional activities because they have more to lose by their participation. A relationship with a mentor can have a positive effect on the social and emotional development of the mentored child.

      • Attachment - Bonding
      • Social Control

      The Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) program has multiple evaluations, both as randomized control trials and quasi-experimental designs, which have been conducted at various locations and among a variety of demographic groups. However, these studies are typically very small and lack methodological rigor. The best study, which does meet quality standards, was conducted by Public/Private Ventures beginning in 1991. Randomization of subjects into treatment and control groups was accomplished, with half the sample then placed on a wait list for a mentor match. This evaluation included eight BBBSA offices nationwide, with 1,138 youth included in the study, and data was available 18 months after assignment for 959 youth. Outcome aims have examined a wide range of effects, including delaying initiation of substance use, academic performance, relationships with family and peers, self-concept, and social and cultural enrichment.

      Results of the multi-site Big Brothers Big Sisters pilot program evaluation found significant reductions in adolescent initiation of alcohol (marginally significant) and illicit drugs, as well as incidence of hitting other people. Adolescents who were mentored by a Big Brother or Big Sister also had improvements in academic performance and achievement. A second randomized control trial conducted in Canada found only marginally significant program effects on 5 of the 45 measured outcomes. Quasi-experimental design studies with much smaller samples have found program effects on academic achievement, improvements in child behavior, and self-concept, and have found that adolescents who were in relationships that lasted a year or longer reported the largest number of improvements.

      An randomized evaluation of youth in 8 Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations demonstrated:

      • Cuts illicit drug initiation 46%
      • Reduces alcohol initiation 27% (marginally significant)
      • Less likely to hit someone.
      • Significant reductions in truancy and cutting class.
      • Marginally significant positive effects for Grade Point Average.

      Significant Program Effects on Risk and Protective Factors:

      • Positive effects on competency about schoolwork.
      • Improvements in quality of relationship with parents and marginally significant improvements for peer emotional support.

      The evaluation ferreted out the differences in the impacts of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program on several subgroups within the overall sample. Results indicate that the program is effective for both males and females, as well as white and minorities. Minority youth were about 70% less likely to initiate drug use than minority control youth while female minority youth were about one-half less likely to initiate alcohol use than the control group. F -tests of subgroups (race, gender) indicated that the BBBSA program is effective for both males and females and among Caucasian and minority youth.

      The Public/Private Ventures study set the significance level to p<=.10, with a two-tailed test, however, significance levels are provided, so significant outcomes at p<=.05 can be identified.

      • Blueprints: Promising
      • Crime Solutions: Effective
      • OJJDP Model Programs: Effective
      • SAMHSA: 3.0-3.1

      De Wit, D.J., Lipman, E., Manzano-Munguia, M., Bisanz, J., Graham, K., Offord, D.R., ... Shaver, K. (2006). Feasibility of a randomized controlled trial for evaluating the effectiveness of Big Brothers Big Sisters community match program at the national level. Children and Youth Services Review, 29, 383-404.

      DuBois, D.L., & Neville, H.A. (1997). Youth mentoring: Investigation of relationship characteristics and perceived benefits. Journal of Community Psychology, 25, 227-234.

      Grossman, J.B., & Tierney, J.P. (1998). Does mentoring work? An impact study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Evaluation Review, 22, 403-426.

      Grossman, J.B., & Rhodes, J.E. (2002). The test of time: Predictors and effects of duration in youth mentoring relationships. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 199-219.

      Thompson, L.A., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2001). The impact of mentoring on academic achievement of at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 23, 227-242.

      Tierney, J.P., Grossman, J.B., & Resch, N.L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

      Turner, S., & Scherman, A. (1996). Big brothers: Impact on little brothers' self-concepts and behaviors. Adolescence, 31, 874-882.

      Dr. Laila Kahn
      Dr. Shivohn Garcia
      Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
      2202 N. Westshore Blvd., Suite 455
      Tampa, FL 33607
      Phone: (813) 720-8778

      Study 1

      Grossman, J.B., & Rhodes, J.E. (2002). The test of time: Predictors and effects of duration in youth mentoring relationships. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 199-219.

      Grossman, J.B., & Tierney, J.P. (1998). Does mentoring work? An impact study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Evaluation Review, 22, 403-426.

      Tierney, J.P., Grossman, J.B., & Resch, N.L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

      Grossman, J.B., & Rhodes, J.E. (2002). The test of time: Predictors and effects of duration in youth mentoring relationships. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 199-219.

      Grossman, J.B., & Tierney, J.P. (1998). Does mentoring work? An impact study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Evaluation Review, 22, 403-426.

      Tierney, J.P., Grossman, J.B., & Resch, N.L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design: Sites for this study were selected from eight BBBS offices nationwide which met the criteria for a large caseload and geographic diversity. The sites included: Philadelphia, Rochester, Minneapolis, Columbus, Wichita, San Antonio, and Phoenix. Of the 1,138 youth found eligible for matches and randomized, baseline interviews were conducted with 1,107 (97.3%). After random assignment, matches were either made or attempted for the youth assigned to the treatment group. The other half were assigned to BBBS waiting lists for 18 months. The matched youth met with their mentors for an average of almost 12 months, with meetings about 3 times a month lasting about 4 hours each time.

      From April 1993 to September 1994, follow-up interviews were attempted with the 1,107 youth with baseline data, with a completion rate of 84.3% (n=959 final analysis sample). Attrition rates from treatment and control conditions were similar (85.3% vs. 83.2% respectively).

      Sample: Of the 487 youth in the treatment group, 378 (78%) were matched with a mentor during the study period. There were 553 control youth in the sample at baseline, and 472 by follow-up. The sample was just over 60% boys and over 55% minority (of minority youth, 71% were African American, 18% were Hispanic, 5% were biracial, 3% were Native American, and 3% other racial/ethnic group). Sixty-nine percent of the youth came to the program between the ages of 11 and 13. Many of the youth came from poor households, with over 40% receiving either food stamps and/or cash public assistance. Household demographics included 90% of youth living with one parent, and 5.6% living with only one of their grandparents (more common among minority youth). One-fifth of the parents/guardians did not graduate from high school, and over 35% had completed only high school or earned a GED. Many of the youth in the study had experienced difficult personal situations, including divorce or separation of their parents, family history of substance abuse or domestic violence, or were victims of physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse.

      Matches for minority boys took approximately 6 months to make, 5 months for White boys, almost 4 months for minority girls, and 3.5 months for White girls. At follow-up, approximately 40% of the matches were no longer meeting. More than 70% of the youths met with their Big Brother or Sister at least three times a month, and approximately 45% met one or more times per week, with average meetings lasting 3.6 hours.

      Measures: A total of 48 outcome measures of behaviors and social-psychological constructs across six outcome areas were used. These outcomes areas included antisocial behaviors (using the Self-Perception Profile for Children), academic performance (using the School Value Scale, grades), attitudes and behaviors, family and peer relationships (using four scales from the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA); Features of Children's Friendship scales also used for peer relationships), self-concept (using the Self-Image Questionnaire for Young Adolescents (SIQYA)), and social and cultural enrichment behaviors.

      Another evaluation with this data (Grossman & Rhodes, 2002) measured the impact of duration in mentoring relationships, and identified predictors of early termination in these relationships. The evaluation included measures of parent relationships, scholastic competence, grades and attendance, school value, self-worth, quality of relationship, and length of relationship.

      Analysis: Multivariate regression analyses (regressions and logits), controlling for variations in youth's baseline characteristics (both demographics and outcome of interest) were used to measure the impact of the BBBS program on treatment youth (Grossman & Tierney, 1998).

      Multivariate regression conducted. F-tests were used to distinguish possible differences between subgroups (gender, ethnicity). When analyzing program impacts on initiation of illicit drug use, only those participants who had indicated at baseline never having used illegal drugs were included. This was the same for analysis of initiation of alcohol (Tierney, Grossman, & Resch, 1995).

      For the Grossman and Rhodes (2002) evaluation, youth were categorized into four groups (dummy variables), depending on how long their matches lasted. Multivariate regression was then used, controlling for baseline levels of variables. To measure predictors of relationship length, proportional hazard rate analysis was used. The four factors examined were baseline characteristics of the youth, baseline characteristics of the adult, characteristics of the match, such as whether the pair was matched primarily because of similar interests or race, and the quality of the relationship.


      Baseline Equivalence and Differential Attrition: T-tests performed on the sample population revealed no demographic and descriptive differences between the treatment and control groups at baseline. Of the total sample at the time of assignment (n=1,138), 959 (84.3%) were available at follow-up. Statistical analyses indicated that there were no baseline differences between the treatment and the control group youth.

      Tierney et al., 1995; Grossman & Tierney, 1998
      On the measure of antisocial behaviors, treatment youth were 46 percent less likely than controls to initiate drug use during the study period. A stronger effect was found for minority youth who were about 70 percent less likely to initiate drug use than minority control youth. Treatment youth were 27 percent less likely to initiate alcohol use than the control group (marginally significant), and female minority youth were about one-half less likely to initiate alcohol use (marginally significant). Treatment youth were almost one-third less likely than controls to hit someone. On the measure of academic performance, attitudes, and behaviors, treatment youth skipped half as many days of school as did control youth, felt more competent about doing schoolwork, skipped fewer classes and showed modest gains in GPAs (marginally significant, p=.10). These gains were strongest among minority females.

      On the measure of family relationships, the quality of the relationship with parents was better for treatment youth (higher level of trust in parent, and the effect was strongest for white males. There was no significant effect on the subscales of Communication and Anger and Alienation, of the Parental Relationship measure. On the measure of peer relationships, treatment youth experienced more improvement in peer emotional support than controls (p=.10), an effect most strongly evidenced among minority males. There was no impact on peer instrumental support, peer conflict, and no overall impact on peer intimacy in communication, although minority males scored marginally significantly higher than controls, but minority females scored marginally significantly lower on this scale. On the measure of self-concept, there was no overall impact (self-worth, social acceptance, and self-confidence), although white males scored marginally significantly higher on the social acceptance scale than controls. On the measure of social and cultural enrichment behaviors, there was no significant impact in the frequency of participation in social and cultural enrichment activities.

      Grossman & Rhodes, 2002
      Results indicate that termination of the mentor relationship within the first 3 months had a negative effect on youths' global self-worth and their perceived scholastic competence. Youth who remained in sustained relationships with their mentors for more than 12 months reported significant increases in their self-worth, perceived social acceptance, perceived scholastic competence, parental relationship quality, school value, and decreases in both alcohol and drug use.

      When a Two Stage Least Squares method was applied, results indicate no significant positive effects for matches lasting less than six months, and a significant increase in the use of alcohol. In these analyses, the matches lasting three months were not separated from those lasting six months. In the 6-12 month group, a few significant academic and behavioral outcomes emerged. The largest number of significant, positive effects emerged from the 12-month or longer group in academic, psychosocial and behavioral outcomes. On the measure of predictors of relationship length, findings were as such: matches with adolescents who were referred for psychological or educational programs, or had sustained emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, were more likely to terminate; matches involving 13-16 year olds were 65% more likely to end in each period examined than matches with 10-12 year olds; higher income volunteers had longer lasting matches; age interaction with marital status effected match longevity, that is, relative to volunteers aged 18-25, married volunteers aged 26-30 were 65% more likely to terminate a relationship and unmarried volunteers in the same age range were 65% less likely to break the match. There was no interaction of age of volunteer and youth. In terms of characteristics of the match, female matches were marginally more likely to terminate than those of males. Race also had an effect. Same-race minority matches terminated more often than same-race white matches, except where interests of the youth and volunteer were primary matching criteria.

      Thompson, L.A., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2001). The impact of mentoring on academic achievement of at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review 23, 227-242.

      This study evaluated the impact of the BBBSA program on academic achievement of at-risk youth. The use of standardized tests in this evaluation was thought to provide a more objective instrument than previous studies examining grade point average, which are more subjectively determined and may not accurately reflect achievement.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design: Participants in the treatment group were matched with a mentor after a stringent screening process, and then met with their mentor on average, two to four hours weekly, for a commitment of one year. Matches were supervised by case managers through contacts with the parent, youth, and mentor. Training was provided to all volunteers and families.

      Sample: Participants of the quasi-experimental design study were recruited from the BBBS of the Midlands, a well-established agency. The rigors of screening and matching mentor pairs, and the support structure in place, promote successful relationships. Treatment youth were boys recruited from agency events, while control participants consisted of boys who had been accepted into the BBBS program but were waiting to be assigned a mentor (average length of time on list was 15 months). Control youth boys were recruited at program orientation meetings and through telephone calls. Recruitment continued until the control group had as many participants as the treatment group. Written parent and youth consent were received before the initial assessment. The original study contained 17 participants in each group. At post-test, 12 treatment youth and 13 control youth remained. Average age of treatment youth was 11.9, while the average age of control youth was 10.4. The sample was predominantly Caucasian (92% of treatment, 77% of control), with African American (15% of control group only) and Hispanic (8% of treatment, 8% of control) youth also represented. All study participants had the risk factor of being from a single parent home, and at least one additional risk factor in order to be eligible to participate. These risk factors included family, school, peer, and substance use risk factors.

      Measures: Each participant was administered the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (K-TEA) Brief Form. This was a composite measure which also yielded scores for reading, math, and spelling. In order to control for the impact of differential cognitive ability on achievement, participants were also administered the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT). Both tests were administered at pre-test, with the K-TEA also administered eight to nine months after the first administration. Mentored youth also indicated the amount of contact with their adult mentor.

      Analysis: ANCOVA analysis was used to account for possible pre-existing differences in intellectual functioning levels between the two groups. Cognitive ability was used as a covariate in order to account for preexisting differences between the two groups.


      Baseline Equivalence and Differential Attrition: Of the 34 youth participating at baseline, only 25 remained at posttest. There was neither mention of a baseline equivalence assessment nor an analysis of differential attrition.

      Posttest: There was a significant impact of mentoring on composite scores for academic achievement. Adjusted mean scores in reading and math also indicated significant differences between the two groups, with no significant difference in spelling scores.

      Brief Bulleted Outcomes:

      • Significant increases among intervention youth in math and reading scores, as well as overall academic achievement, compared to control youth.

      Limitations: The generalizability and validity of this study are limited because of the lack of randomization in the assignment of groups, and the two conditions were not even matched. A second limitation of the study consisted of the composition of the participants, which was extremely small (at posttest n=25) and consisted of predominantly Caucasian boys. The loss of 9 participants from pretest to posttest is substantial, considering the small sample. Also, one of the persons dropped was a boy excluded from analysis because he met with his mentor only one to two times a month. There was no analysis of differential attrition.

      Turner, S., & Scherman, A. (1996). Big brothers: impact on little brothers' self-concepts and behaviors. Adolescence 31, 875-882.

      The primary outcome measures in this small sample evaluation were self-concept and behavior.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design: This study used a small sample (n=45) of boys involved with the BBBSA program in the state of Oklahoma and measured the impact of the program on self-concept and behavior.

      Sample: The intervention group (n=23) consisted of boys aged 9-15 who had been matched with a big brother for at least 6 months, while the control group (n=22) consisted of boys aged 7-13 who were on a waiting list to be matched.

      Measures: The Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale and the Child Behavior Checklist, Parent Version (CBCL) were used to measure the target variables. The self-concept scale is a self-report measure that clusters 6 variables (Behavior; Intellectual and School Status; Physical Appearance and Attributes; Anxiety; Popularity; and Happiness and Satisfaction), while the CBCL has parents self-report on their child’s behavior for a composite Problem Scale. There are 8 areas (Withdrawn; Somatic Complaints; Anxious/Depressed; Social Problems; Thought Problems; Attention Problems; Delinquent Behavior; and Aggressive Behavior). The two instruments were mailed to participants with a consent form. Instructions indicated that participation in the study would not jeopardize their status within the BBBS agency. Of the 92 pairs of instruments mailed, 45 usable pairs (48%) were returned.

      Analysis: An analysis of means and standard deviations on the ratings on both scales was conducted.


      Baseline Equivalence and Differential Attrition
      : This study did not indicate the demographic make-up of the sample, nor mention baseline equivalence or differential attrition analysis.

      Post-test: Results indicate that boys who were matched with a mentor reported higher self-concepts than those who had yet to be matched. Further analysis of four selected subscales indicated that intervention boys reported significantly higher ratings of their physical appearance and popularity, and significantly less feelings of anxiety than boys in the control group. There were no statistically significant differences found with regard to mothers’ ratings on the CBCL, although trends in the results did favor the matched boys.

      Brief Bulleted Outcomes:

      • Association with a Big Brother had a significantly positive effect on the self-concept of the Little Brother.
      • Trends indicate an improvement in child behavior among boys who are matched with a mentor.

      Limitations: The study included a small sample, and treatment and control groups were not matched at pretest. Only 48% of the solicited pairs were used, thus creating the potential for selection bias. Analyses were not intent-to-treat and only compared means with a t-test.

      Dubois, D.L., & Neville, H.A. (1997). Youth mentoring: investigation of relationship characteristics and perceived benefits. Journal of Community Psychology, 25, 227-234.

      This study examined mentor perceptions of youth benefits of mentor programs in terms of the frequency of mentor-youth contact and feeling of closeness in relationships.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design: The responses of BBBS mentors were compared to those partaking in a mentoring program through a university service-learning course in the same city.

      Sample: Participants in the sample included 27 BBBS mentors (69% of the 39 volunteers at the agency) and 40 university student participants. Of the BBBS mentors, 12 were male and 15 were female, with an average age of 28.78 years. The majority were White, with the exception of 2 African American women. The youth they were mentoring had an average age of 11.57 years, and included 2 African Americans and 21 Whites (background information was not available for 4 of the youth). University students consisted of 12 males and 28 females whose average age was 20.62 years. Again, the majority were White. Youth mentored by the university students had an average age of 15.37 years, with the majority being White (n=30), with the remainder representing various backgrounds, including African American (n=4) and Chicano and Latino (n=4). All youth in both programs were the same sex as their mentors.

      Measures: Data was collected via questionnaire, collected from BBBS participants once a month for a 6-month period, and from the university students, once approximately 12 weeks into their semester. The BBBS volunteers assessed a variety of characteristics of the mentoring relationship, including the amount of youth-mentor contact, subjective feelings of closeness toward the youth, obstacles in the relationship, degree of contact with agency staff, and the frequency with which the volunteer and youth discussed various topics or engaged in different types of activities. In the final month, mentors were also asked to rate the extent to which youth benefited from the relationship during the 6-month period. The university students completed one survey with generally similar questions, with the most notable difference being that resulting measures of relationship characteristics (e.g., amount of mentor-youth contact) were based on only the prior month.

      Analysis: Zero order correlations were made to assess differences in relationship characteristics and perceived benefits between Big Brothers/Big Sister mentors and university students. Tests were two-tailed, but significance was set at p<=.10. Analysis was intent-to-treat and did include all youth regardless of level of exposure.


      Post-test: Results indicate that the majority of BBBS volunteers (82.6%) felt youth received "moderate" benefits from the relationship over the 6-month period, with the remainder reporting "small benefit." The university sample felt youth received "great" (20%) or "moderate" (40%) benefit, with nearly all remaining reporting "small" benefit. There was an inverse relationship found between the length of time the BBBS mentor had been in a relationship and the amount of contact they had with agency staff. BBBS mentors who had been in longer relationships also, however, reported less extensive contact with youth and fewer relationship obstacles. These associations were similar among the university students. With regard to relationship characteristics, in the BBBS sample, reports of mentor-youth contact and closeness were positively associated with perceived benefits for youth, whereas reports of contact with agency staff were negatively associated with perceived benefits. Length of relationship, when controlling for the reported level of average monthly contact, yielded a strong significant positive association with perceived benefits. For the university students, there was again a positive association with reports of mentor-youth contact and closeness on perceived benefits. However, there was no significant association found between length of relationship and benefit ratings, even when controlling for rate of contact. This may have been the result of the shorter length of relationship in this program (1-7 months) compared to the BBBS relationships.

      Brief Bulleted Outcomes:

      • Higher frequencies of contact between the mentor and youth resulted in greater perceived benefits for youth.
      • Feelings of emotional closeness in the mentor-youth relationship yielded greater perceived benefits for youth.
      • Length of relationship in the BBBS match resulted in greater perceived benefits for youth.

      Limitations: The sample size in this study was small, and relied solely on the responses of the mentors in terms of data collection. Data was also collected from the university student sample only once, as opposed to several time points for the BBBS mentors.

      De Wit, D.J., Lipman, E., Manzano-Munguia, M., Bisanz, J., Graham, K., Offord, D.R., ... Shaver, K. (2006). Feasibility of a randomized controlled trial for evaluating the effectiveness of Big Brothers Big Sisters community match program at the national level. Children and Youth Services Review, 29, 383-404.

      This was an external replication conducted in Canada.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design: Two agencies in Ontario recruited families over a 12-month period. Families who were eligible for receiving a mentor for their child must have had a child between ages 7 and 14. Only one child per family was eligible to participate, so if there were multiple children in an eligible family, one was randomly selected to participate. Of 72 targeted families, 71 agreed to participate. The 71 families were randomly assigned to either the treatment group or a waitlisted control group, who would receive the program after at least 12 months. There were 39 treatment children and 32 controls. Waitlist controls were able to participate in recreational and educational activities. Assessments were conducted with children by agency staff at baseline and 12-month follow-up, while parents and mentors completed self-administered surveys on the same assessment schedule.

      Sample Characteristics: Demographic data on the groups were as follows: 45% of children were between the ages of 7 and 9 years; 51% were boys and 77% came from a single parent family, 72% of which were female-headed households; 24% of children had caregivers with less than a high school education, 51% of families had a gross household income of under $20,000, and 36% received government assistance; 35% of the children were of a minority ethnicity (African Canadian, Aboriginal, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, or Jewish); 94% of parents enrolled in the program were female and these parents were, on average, 43 years of age; 60% of parents were currently divorced, separated, or widowed, while 45% reported a long-term physical or mental health problem. The majority of mentors (54%) were male and of a mean age of 27 years, and the majority, like the majority of youth, were white European.

      Measures: The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was used to measure child- and parent-reports of externalizing and internalizing problems, specifically emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity and inattention. To assess children's behavior problems at school, children reported how frequently (from "never" to "four or more times") they either experienced or engaged in truancy, disciplinary referrals, delinquency, and disruptive behavior. Parents also provided some information for this domain, reporting the number of times their child got into trouble for misbehaving in school. Indirect aggression, or children's attempts to harm peers through manipulation, was assessed with items from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. The Centre for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) was used to measure frequency of depressive symptoms in the past week. Social anxiety was assessed with the Revised Social Anxiety Scale for Children (SASC-R), looking specifically at fear of negative peer evaluations, social avoidance and distress specific to new situations, and social avoidance in general. Academic achievement was measured with child- and parent-reports of letter grades received and English, science and mathematics performance. Children and parents were also both asked to report on child's community involvement and how frequently children participated in various activities. The HARE self-esteem scale was used to measure peer self-esteem and self-image, and the Survey of Children's Social Support assessed children's perceptions of how often they received support from a significant other, allowing for peer, teacher, and parent social supports. Quality of children's relationships was assessed for parent-child relationships (by parents), teacher-child relationships (child and parent reports), and friend-child relationships (child and parent reports). Children's social skills were measured with child- and parent-reports on the Elementary Level Student and Parent Forms of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), while children provided reports of coping skills with the Coping Scale for Children and Youth (CSCY). More specifically, these two instruments provided measures of cooperation, empathy, self-control, assertion, responsibility, cognitive behavioral problem solving, cognitive avoidance, behavioral avoidance, and assistance seeking. Other measures included child- and parent-reported attachment to school and child-reported sense of school safety and bullying.

      Analysis: Data analysis was conducted with repeated measures analysis of covariance (ANCOVA).


      Baseline Equivalence and Differential Attrition: 59 of the 71 families completed post-test assessments for an overall attrition rate of 18%. Of the 33 treatment group children who were assigned to receive a mentor during the 12-month period, 26 were matched, indicating that 21% of those who should have participated in the intervention with a mentor did not. At baseline, groups significantly differed on 5 of 45 outcome measures - indirect child aggression, academic self-efficacy, teacher social supports, self-reported physical attractiveness, and quality of parent/child relationship as reported by parents. There was also evidence of differential attrition by experimental group on 3 of the 45 measures, such that those who dropped out of the study had significantly higher scores on school misbehavior and significantly lower scores on assertiveness and attachment to school than those who were retained.

      Posttest: Analysis revealed only marginally significant program effects on 5 of the 45 outcome measures, all from child self-reports. Program youth made improvements, relative to controls, on emotional problems (p = .08), fear of negative peer evaluation and generalized social anxiety and distress (in both cases p = .10), social support from teacher (p = .07), and self-control skills (p = .08).

      Limitations: Overall, attrition was modest and, though there was evidence of differential attrition by group, this was only evident on 3 of the 45 outcome measures. Analyses controlled for baseline levels of outcome measures. However, 21% of treatment youth did not receive the treatment. This may explain why only marginally significant effects were found for only 5 of the 45 outcomes. There were no true significant effects at the .05 level.