Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean Rhodes

Second Advisor

Alexandra Werntz

Third Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower


Rates of depression in children and adolescents are rising in the United States. In addition to professional treatment, many youth are referred to formal youth mentoring programs to address this mental health concern. Mentoring has been associated with small to moderate reductions in depression symptoms, which is promising, particularly since mentoring programs are generally more accessible, affordable, and acceptable to marginalized youth. To achieve stronger effects for depression, and to potentially bridge gaps in effective mental health service, it is necessary to determine what aspects of the mentoring relationship are most strongly associated reductions in depression symptoms. Youth psychotherapy has produced stronger effects on youth depression than mentoring, and yet therapeutic and mentoring relationships possess shared features. Thus, exploring aspects of mentoring that are known to be “active ingredients” in therapy for youth depression might provide insight into what mentor activities may be helpful in reducing mentees’ depression symptoms. This study drew on a large-scale evaluation of 30 mentoring programs, including a sample of 1,171 mentees between the ages of 11 and 16 (Mage = 12.49, SD =1.42), to examine how mentors’ deployment of ‘active ingredients’ of youth psychotherapy for depression (e.g. cognitive change and problem solving, social engagement) is related to changes in youth depression symptoms over time. Results showed that older, female, White mentees, and mentees who were experiencing more academic challenges had higher depression symptoms at baseline. A repeated measures ANOVA revealed that there was a statistically significant decrease in depression symptoms at follow-up after accounting for match length (F(1,1169)=18.78, p<.001, ηp2= .016). A structural equation model was tested to investigate the hypothesis that mentors’ engagement in cognitive change and problem solving, social engagement, behavioral engagement in pleasant activities, and alliance would be related to change in depression symptoms in youth. Contrary to the study hypothesis, the relationships between mentor’s engagement in these strategies and change in depression symptoms were not significant. This suggests the need for further investigation of other factors influencing change in depression symptoms within mentoring programs. The current study provides valuable information about the associations between age, gender, race and academic challenges and depression in youth in mentoring programs, and the potential influence of participating in a mentoring program on reducing youth depression symptoms.


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