May | June 2018

Research Central: Assessing Collegiate Women's Mentoring of

At-Risk Girls

Young Women Leaders Program logoAccording to OJJDP's Statistical Briefing Book, girls accounted for more than one-fourth (28 percent) of the delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts in 2015. Identifying programs that can help prevent and reduce girls' delinquency is essential for decreasing their involvement in the juvenile justice system and lowering crime rates overall.

In 2013, OJJDP funded the University of Virginia to evaluate whether youth participation in the Young Women Leaders Program (YWLP) reduced offending and improved other outcomes 5 years later. YWLP pairs female college mentors with at-risk seventh-grade girls in Charlottesville, VA, for structured group activities and one-on-one mentoring in an afterschool setting. The targeted schools have higher proportions of students with risk factors for delinquency, which include poverty, foster care placements, serious emotional problems, school failure, and school dropout rates that are higher than state averages.

The researchers conducted a study with approximately 360 girls who started the program between 2007 and 2010. Five years after the girls' program participation ended, OJJDP funded followup data collection on approximately half the sample. The second study also explored how processes involved in the program delivery and qualities of the mentoring relationship might influence the program's impact.

Researchers found that higher levels of mentee participation were associated with positive outcomes. As the girls increased their involvement in the program, they experienced improvements in self-esteem and reductions in delinquent behavior. Self-esteem and delinquency measures were based on self-reported responses to the Global Self-Worth Scale and the Problem Behavior Frequency Scale.

Evaluating the effect of mentoring programs on offending behavior is often difficult because the programs are usually targeted at younger children, while delinquency tends to become more evident during the teenage years. Conducting these types of followup analyses throughout adolescence is an important step in determining how interventions for at-risk girls may affect delinquency in the longer term.


Additional information on OJJDP's Young Women Leaders Program is available online.

For more on the Office's mentoring resources, visit OJJDP's website.