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Older and Wiser

Older and Wiser

New Ideas for Youth Mentoring in the 21st Century

Jean E. Rhodes

ISBN 9780674292277

Publication date: 03/01/2023

Winner of the Eleanor Maccoby Book Award

“This engaging and well-written book is a significant advance in our understanding of when and how mentoring matters…[It] lays the foundations for an approach to mentoring that is both rigorous and rich in new ideas.”
—Robert D. Putnam, author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

“Rhodes forces us to slam the brakes on ineffective practices and improve an industry that is devoted to the potential of our nation’s children…The author’s concrete recommendations will create new pathways to opportunity for youth in greatest need.”
—Michael D. Smith, Executive Director, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance

“A powerful assessment of what is needed to best help young people today.”
—Pam Iorio, President and CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Youth mentoring is one of the most popular forms of volunteering in the world today, but does it work? Drawing on over thirty years of research and her own experience in the field, Jean Rhodes reveals that most mentoring programs fail to deliver what young people actually need. Many prioritize building emotional bonds between mentors and mentees. But research shows that effective programs go far beyond this, developing specific social, emotional, and intellectual skills.

Most mentoring programs rely on volunteers, who rarely have the training to teach these skills. Their one-size-fits-all models struggle to meet the diverse needs of mentees, and rarely take account of the psychological effects of poverty on children. Rhodes doesn’t think we should give up on mentoring—far from it. Instead, she recommends “organic” mentorship opportunities—in schools, youth sports leagues, and community organizations—and shares specific approaches that can spark meaningful change in young people’s lives.


  • Rhodes has demonstrated why she is regarded as the foremost authority on youth mentoring in the U.S. and internationally. Her singularly broad and deep knowledge of the science and her unparalleled understanding of the program and policy implications of mentoring research are crystallized magnificently in this important and timely book. Accessible to scholars, practitioners, students, parents, and other caregivers, this book will quickly be seen as a classic.

    —Richard M. Lerner, Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University


  • 2023, Winner of the Eleanor Maccoby Book Award


  • Jean E. Rhodes is Frank L. Boyden Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She cofounded the European Centre for Evidence-Based Mentoring and is a fellow of the American Psychological Association.

Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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