How peer mentoring promotes positive youth development

How peer mentoring promotes positive youth development

Peer support programs play a crucial role in improving student wellbeing and resilience, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by Deakin University’s Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development for Peer Support Australia (PSA), found that the use support modules incorporating peer tutoring and mentoring was effective in promoting positive youth development in schools.

“Peer mentoring programs result in a range of health and social benefits, which become clearer when programs are clearly structured,” said Professor John Toumbourou, Deakin’s chair of health psychology chair and lead investigator of the report.

According to the study, which analysed the effectiveness of PSA’s programs in the education sector, evaluations of school tutoring programs revealed positive effects on the academic performance and attitudes “both for those who received tutoring and also for peers providing tutoring.”

The report added that “tutoring programs had significantly larger effects where they were well structured, shorter (less than five weeks), in the subject area of maths rather than reading, and focused on skills that were easily taught.”

Among the health and social benefits that the study found in participating students were reduced “antisocial behaviours, smoking, drug use, and increased adult help-seeking for suicide risk, and for females, physical activity.”

“There is an urgent need for school programs to rebuild the wellbeing and resilience of Australian students in the wake of COVID-19,” said Toumbourou. “These programs have the potential to be further enhanced to reach more students and involve them in implementing prevention programs in their school and community.”

In the report, Toumbourou recommended that PSA widens its programs’ reach, with expansion centred on “enhancing school climate, student wellbeing, and positive development, while also contributing to international improvements quantified in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

He added that youth development programs should provide students with opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills in areas that will “advance character and drive future employment.”