Although socioeconomic challenges and mental health impairments are commonly observed alongside attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities, data are lacking on possible strategies to combat this problem. In a new study, a team of researchers measured and analyzed the value of a near-peer mentoring program for young patients with ADHD or learning disabilities with the goal of promoting social-emotional well-being.
Participants were youth with ADHD or learning disabilities, who were stratified into groups based on whether they participated in the mentoring program (mentored, n = 99) or did not take part in the program (control-NM, n = 51). Non-mentored developmentally typical children without learning disabilities or ADHD were also recruited (control-TD, n = 81). All participants were evaluated pre- and post-mentoring. Participants self-reported anxiety, depression, interpersonal relations, and self-esteem.
At baseline, participants with learning disabilities or ADHD had significantly higher depression scores and lower interpersonal relations scores compared to the control-TD group. After mentoring, the mentored group presented significantly lower depression scores and higher self-esteem scores—improvements that were found to be associated with mentee-perceived mentorship quality. Meanwhile, self-esteem and interpersonal relations both significantly decreased in the control-NM group, and depression scores increased over time. All measurements in the control-TD group remained stable over time.
The authors concluded that mentoring appeared to have potential as an intervention for young patients with learning disabilities or ADHD with co-occurring socio-emotional and mental health challenges. They also added that the study “highlights the importance of strong interpersonal relationships as a protective factor.”