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Mentoring Youth in Rural Settings

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2023
21 pages

This review examines research on mentoring youth who live in rural or non-urban settings, as defined according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with special discussion of minoritized youth, including racial, ethnic, mental health, and substance-abuse risk, and sexual or gender minority youth.


This review, which examines research on mentoring for youth who reside in rural settings, is organized around four topics: the documented effectiveness of mentoring for youth in rural settings; the extent to which mentor, youth, and program characteristics and practices influence the effectiveness of rural mentoring; the intervening processes that may link mentoring rural youth to youth outcomes; and the extent to which efforts to reach and engage youth in rural settings achieve high-quality implementation and adopt and sustain programs over time. The review discusses five conclusions based on findings from the research: informal and formal mentoring in rural settings shows promise of being effective in promoting health and well-being among youth in several domains, although some mentoring outcomes such as juvenile delinquency, have yet to be studied; much of the research on rural mentoring focuses on the role of informal mentors or grassroots mentoring programs, and there is limited empirical research data on the effectiveness of formal mentoring programs such as 4-H or Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; regional characteristics appear to be important factors driving positive mentoring outcomes among rural youth, and the limited research available does offer promising evidence that skills promotion and other efforts may result in positive change through mentoring; some challenges to mentoring rural youth are more pronounced than in urban settings, including lack of services, resources, mentors, activity variety, financial challenges, and transportation; and finally, mentoring in rural communities tends to focus on different outcomes than in urban communities, and the potential for rural mentoring to influence on several youth outcomes is not well understood.

Date Published: February 1, 2023