This article presents a study that examined how social class bias may be enacted by mentors and mentoring program staff within community-based youth mentoring relationships and how these biases may influence the mentoring relationship.
A narrative thematic analysis was conducted with interviews from mentors, mentees’ parents/caregivers, and mentoring program staff representing 36 matches participating in a larger, prospective, mixed-methods study examining factors associated with early match closures. Findings indicate that although some mentors were able to partner with the youth and family to effectively navigate challenges related to the family's economic circumstances, other mentors and some mentoring program staff held deficit views of the youth and their family that appeared to be at least partially rooted in negative social class-based assumptions about attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, researchers observed tendencies on the part of some mentors and program staff toward (a) deficit-based views of families and youth, (b) individual-level attributions for the family's economic circumstances and blaming of caregivers, and (c) perceiving mentors as being underappreciated by the youth's caregiver. These deficit perspectives contributed to the minimization of parent/caregiver voice in the mentoring process and negative interpretations of parent/caregiver and, in some cases, youth attitudes and behaviors.