Making A Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters

The past decade has seen widespread enthusiasm for mentoring as a way to address the needs and problems of youth—butno firm evidence that mentoring programs produce results. We now have that evidence.

In this report, Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) provides scientifically reliable evidence that mentoring programs can positively affect young people. This evidence derives from research conducted at local affiliates of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA), the oldest, best-known and, arguably, the most sophisticated mentoring program in the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) programs currently maintain 75,000 active matches between a volunteer adult and a youngster. Both the programs and matches are governed by carefully established procedures and criteria. P/PV conducted a comparative study of 959 10- to 16-year-olds who applied to BBBS programs in 1992 and 1993. Half of these youth were randomly assigned to a treatment group, for which BBBS matches were made or attempted; the other half were assigned to BBBS waiting lists. We compared the two groups after 18 months and found that participants in a BBBS program:

  • Were less likely to start using drugs and alcohol;
  • Were less likely to hit someone; 
  • Improved school attendance and performance, and attitudes
  • toward completing schoolwork; and 
  • Improved peer and family relationships. 

This report is part of P/PV’s eight-year investigation of a range of adult-youth relationship projects. In other reports, we have examined program practices; volunteer recruitment and screening in BBBS programs; and the characteristics of adult-youth relationships in BBBS and other mentoring programs.

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