While mentorship programs, which connect adolescents with adults to whom they can turn to for help and advice, are proliferating in an attempt to prevent high-risk behaviors in teenagers, there are few data to show that mentorship actually makes a difference.
To determine if there is an association between having an adult mentor and high-risk behaviors in adolescents.
Adolescents who have an adult mentor would be less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors than those without an adult mentor.
Cross-sectional study. A self-administered, anonymous questionnaire was developed to assess demographics, involvement in risk behaviors, and the prevalence of a mentor in the life of a young person.
A convenience sample of 294 adolescents, seen consecutively (93% of those approached), receiving outpatient medical care. Participants were predominantly female (68%), of mixed race/ethnicity, aged between 12 and 23 years (mean ± SD age, 16.9 ± 2.4), and from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
An adolescent health service in a suburban community-based teaching hospital.
Main Outcome Measures
Adolescent smoking, alcohol and drug use, sexual practices, and weapon carrying.
Adolescents with mentors were significantly less likely to participate in 4 of the 5 measured risk behaviors: ever carrying a weapon (odds ratio, 0.41; P≤.01), illicit drug use in the past 30 days (odds ratio, 0.44;P≤.01), smoking more than 5 cigarettes per day (odds ratio, 0.54; P≤.05), and sex with more than 1 partner in the past 6 months (odds ratio, 0.56;P≤.05). No significant difference was found with alcohol use (≥3 drinks in the past 30 days).
A strong positive relationship was found between adolescents having an adult mentor and decreased participation in 4 of the 5 risk behaviors evaluated.