The Power of Cross-Age Mentoring

The AIM Buddy Project mentoring platform invites children to engage in active discussions, collaborate in problem solving, and learn from each other in a dynamic, unconventional, classroom experience. Several research studies have found that enhancing traditional classroom instruction with one-on-one interventions, such as a reading-buddies program, can aid the development of positive social behaviors and peer relations. There is ample evidence that peer relationships are important for character development.1 This is especially true for peers who are of different ages, also known as cross-age peers.2 In fact, cross-age mentoring is a key developmental asset for promoting social, emotional, and character development in children.3

Evidence from other cross-age mentorships suggests that the program will be of value to both mentors and mentees of our program.4 In the past, peer mentoring partnerships have had success with increasing participants’ social acceptance, empathy, positive classroom behavior, self-esteem, and interpersonal problem-solving.5

In a general context, mentoring typically involves regular meetings between a younger child and an older child or adult who provides the child with guidance, support, attention, and caring over an extended period of time. In the AIM Buddy Project, cross-age mentoring refers to elementary school students—a buddy pair made up of a younger (“little buddy”) and an older (“big buddy”) student. This cross-age mentoring provides a great opportunity for both buddies to help bring out each other’s positive characteristics related to their character development.6 This process involves active engagement by Big Buddies and Little Buddies and a collaborative effort toward reasoning, explanation, and problem solving.7

Research also shows that social play has the ability to improve negotiation and conflict resolution skills as well as to reinforce empathy and perspective taking. As children begin to engage in collaborative social play, they become more competent in these skills, which are important components in the development of prosocial values and behaviors.8


  1. Grusec, J. E., & Hastings, P. D. (2014). Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 19, 301-317. Walker, L., Hennig, K., & Krettenauer, T. (2000). Parent and peer contexts for children’s moral reasoning development. Child Development, 71 (4), 1033-1048.

  2. Karcher, M. J. (2007). Cross-age peer mentoring. Youth Mentoring: Research in Action, 1(7), 3–17.

  3. Burrell, B., Wood, S., Pikes, T., and Holliday, C. (2001). Student mentors and proteges: Learning together. The Council for Exceptional Children, 33, 24-29. Karcher, M. J. (2007). Cross-age peer mentoring. Youth Mentoring: Research in Action, 1(7), 3–17.

  4. Karcher, M., & MENTOR/National Mentoring, P. (2007). Cross-Age Peer Mentoring. Research in Action. Issue 7.

  5. Noll, V. (1997). Cross-Age Mentoring Program for social skills development. School Counselor, 44(3), 239.

  6. Turner, V. D., & Berkowitz, M. W. (2005). Scaffolding morality: Positioning a socio-cultural construct. New Ideas in Psychology, 23 (3), 174-184.

  7.  Tasca, A. (2002). Teaching and Learning in Science Through a Science Buddies Programs. Investigating: Australian Primary & Junior Science Journal, 18, 16-19. Fair, C., Hopkins, A., & Decker, K. (2010). To me it’s like having a kid, kind of: Analysis of student reflections in a developmental mentoring program. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 19, 301-317.

  8.  Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2015). Prosocial Development. In M. E. Lamb (Vol. Ed.) and R. M. Lerner (Series Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Social, emotional, and personality development (7th ed, pp. 610-656). New York: Wiley.

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