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Big Brothers Big Sisters of America



Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) is a mentoring program that matches an adult volunteer, known as a Big Brother or Big Sister, to a child, known as a Little Brother or Little Sister, with the expectation that a caring and supportive relationship will develop. The most important component of the intervention is the match between volunteer and child. Equally important, however, is the support of that match by the ongoing supervision and monitoring of the relationship by a professional staff member. The professional staff member selects, matches, monitors, and closes the relationship with the volunteer and child, and communicates with the volunteer, parent/guardian, and child throughout the relationship.

The generalized activity of the relationship between volunteer and child is related to the goals that were set initially when the match was established. The foremost goal is to develop a relationship—one that is mutually satisfying, where both parties come together freely on a regular basis. More specific goals might relate to school attendance, academic performance, relationships with other children and siblings, general hygiene, learning new skills, or developing a hobby. The goals are developed into an individualized plan, which is updated by the BBBSA staff member as progress is made and circumstances change over time.

BBBSA typically targets youth aged 6 to 18 years. The local BBBSA agency develops its own criteria that define the type of child who is appropriate to be matched with a volunteer. Although many children come from single-parent households, most agencies serve children from dual-parent households when there is some type of stress in the family, such as illness, poverty, or other circumstances that make it difficult for both parents to provide ongoing nurturing and support for the child.

An evaluation of the BBBSA program has been conducted to assess children who participated in BBBSA compared with their nonparticipating peers. After an 18-month period, BBBSA youth:

  • Were 46 percent less likely than control youth to initiate drug use during the study period.
  • Were 27 percent less likely to initiate alcohol use than control youth.
  • Were almost one-third less likely than control youth to hit someone.
  • Were better than control youth in academic behavior, attitudes, and performance.
  • Were more likely to have higher-quality relationships with their parents or guardians than control youth.
  • Were more likely to have higher-quality relationships with their peers at the end of the study period than were control youth.

Risk Factors


Antisocial/delinquent beliefs

Conduct disorders (authority conflict/rebellious/stubborn/disruptive/antisocial)

General delinquency involvement

Poor refusal skills


Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)

Poor parent-child relations or communication


Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school

Low academic aspirations

Low achievement in school

Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school

Poor student-teacher relations

Poorly defined rules and expectations for appropriate conduct


Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency

Association with gang-involved peers/relatives

Peer alcohol/drug use


OJJDP Blueprints Project: Effective program

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Effective program

OJJDP Model Programs Guide: Exemplary program


Research and Program Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
230 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215) 567-7000
Mobile: (215) 567-0394
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: www.bbbsa.org


Grossman, J. B., and Garry, E. M. (1997). “Mentoring: A Proven Delinquency Prevention Strategy.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

McGill, D. E.; Mihalic, S. F.; and Grotpeter, J. K. (1998). Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Book Two: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Tierney, J. P., and Grossman, J. (1995). Making a Difference: An Impact Study. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

Date Created: April 7, 2021