New perspectives on mentoring : young people, youth work and adults
This study sets out to examine the process of mentoring in relation to young people and youth work. It takes a qualitative approach to examining mentoring from the perspectives of the participants, both young people and adults. Techniques employed include group interviews, and in-depth individual interviews. The investigation focuses on informal mentoring processes within youth settings. The predominance of the 'classic' model of mentoring is challenged as are the underlying constructions of young people as 'unfinished'. A purposive sample was drawn from a wide range of rural and urban youth groups in the North East of Scotland. 200 young people took part in a series of group interviews (n=120 young women, n=80 young men). A sub-sample of 30 was drawn from this and interviewed individually. 21 from the sub-sample were interviewed again, approximately six months apart. A further sample of 30 adults was interviewed, 13 of whom had been identified by young people while 17 were youth workers whose remit included a mentoring element. Flexible interview frameworks were used as a guide for discussion and the interviews were largely informal and unstructured. From these interviews a number of forms of mentoring were identified. These suggest that young people experience a diversity of styles of mentoring. Related to this a number of ecological factors (e.g. gender identity, early pregnancy) influence these different forms. Common to both these dimensions were distinctive processes of mentoring which were considered to be salient by both young people and adults. Thus it is proposed that mentoring is more accurately described as a set of processes within a relationship rather than a relationship per se. These processes in turn are intimately linked to the outcomes of mentoring which contribute to a unique form of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1973). An attempt is made to theorise mentoring more adequately and in particular to take account of the perceptions and perspectives of mentees and mentors.