Abstract: Active Ingredients of a Teen Parent Mentoring Program: Dual Perspectives of Mentors and Mentees (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12827 Active Ingredients of a Teen Parent Mentoring Program: Dual Perspectives of Mentors and Mentees

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 9:00 AM
Garden Room A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Julie Cooper Altman, PhD , Adelphi University, Associate Professor, Garden City, NY
Background and Purpose: Numerous programs across the U.S. have been shown to help adolescent parents better rear their children (Harris & Franklin, 2003; Shanok & Miller, 2007). Many employ mentors as part of these efficacious efforts, though few have sought to understand the extent to which the mentoring component has meaning for the participants, what meaning it has, how it is seen to impact their parenting practice, or possibly provides other unintended benefits (Rains, Davies & McKinnon, 1998; McDonell, Limber & Connor Godbey, 2007). Further, little is known about the differing perspectives this experience has for the teen mentors and those they mentor (Zippay, 1995; Waller, Brown & Whittle, 1999). This study sought to better understand the complex dynamics of a teen parent mentoring program from the perspectives of its participants and its effects on both the teen parent mentors and first time teen parent mentees using a qualitative research approach.

Methods: The processes and outcomes of one teen parent mentoring program were studied using phenomenological inquiry methods. Intensive interviews with a purposive sample of 8 Latina teen parent mentors and 8 Latina teen parent mentee participants took place at three points in time: at program start, and at 8 and 24 weeks post program start. Interviews took place in participants' first language (Spanish) and were later transcribed, translated to English and back-translated. Data from these interviews were then qualitatively analyzed, using Spradley's (1979) ethnoscientific approach, to identify those processes that were deemed critical to the reported success of program participants regarding healthy parenting practices, other benefits, and the meaning of the experience to both groups.

Results: Benefits to teen parents who were involved in the teen parenting mentoring program were many, some unique to and some generalized across the two groups studied. First-time Latina teen mother mentees and the older Latina teen parent peer mentors reported improvement in their current parenting practices, believed their future capacities to parent were enhanced and found social support to be a primary benefit of the mentoring program. The mentors reported an increase in both their interpersonal relationship skills and in the confidence and comfort they took in their parenting practices. Mentees considered peer modeling and acceptance the most significant beneficial aspects of the mentoring program. Additionally, while both groups were able to identify numerous other program components that they believed related to their improved parenting, teen mentees isolated the mentoring relationship itself as the most robust active ingredient.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings from this study may be used to better contextualize and target interventions, specifically mentoring, that will enhance, support and improve the capacity of young parents to provide a nurturing and appropriate environment for their children both now and in the future. One of the unintended program benefits, better relationship skill, increases the likelihood of engaging in more positive future social relationships, believed to be a protective factor for parent-child relationships across the lifespan. Culturally relevant interventions for Latina parents may also be better informed from these qualitative findings.