Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with parents of youth participating in a mentoring match, the volunteer mentors matched with the children of these parents and staff members from the mentoring programs from which the mentor and parent participants were drawn. Twenty-nine cases were selected from among 67 mentoring matches that were part of a larger longitudinal study of youth mentoring relationships. These cases were either Established (n=15) mentoring relationships that lasted a minimum of 12 months or Dissolved (n=14) matches that were matched for at least 6 months, but ended before reaching 12 months. Each mentoring case analyzed included at least 2 qualitative interviews with each mentor (n=29) and parent (n=29) at each time point of their participation during the first year of the mentoring match. In addition, for this study 12 agency staff members were interviewed one time each. Descriptive understandings of each participant's individual perspective were constructed through thematic coding (Boyatzis, 1998) and commonalities and differences in the themes were examined within and across the three groups of participants
Results Three themes emerged regarding parental roles from comparisons of the perspectives of the parents, mentors and agency staff: a) distinct and active roles that parents played to support their child's mentoring relationships, b) a mismatch of expectations or hopes among parents, mentors and agency staff regarding the roles parents should play in their child's mentoring relationship, and c) indirect patterns of communication between mentors, parents and agency staff.
Conclusions and Implications: In light of Dubois, et.al (2002) findings that parental involvement can serve to positively influence youth mentoring relationships, there is need to more fully understand the parental role in the mentoring process. This study offers insight into parental involvement as a more purposeful process than previously understood and highlights the many roles that parents are playing behind the scenes. Due to differences in expectations and lack of communication between parents and program staff, the findings here suggest that programs may be missing opportunities to tap into an important and undervalued resource for supporting and or strengthening youth-mentoring relationships. Further these finding can help to inform programs on the value of capilatlizing on parental involvement to maximize the potential benefit for youth in formal mentoring relationships that programs faciliatate and support.