A Review Of
“Volunteerism During The Transition To Adulthood: A Life Course Perspective”
Sabrina Oesterle, Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, and Jeylan T. Mortimer, 2004
Social Forces. Volume 82, Issue 3. pp. 1123-1149
This article involves a study looking to discover whether certain roles (educational, work, and family oriented), which have promoted volunteerism during adulthood, do the same for late adolescence and early adulthood. The subject of volunteerism is important because studies have shown that within the past 25 years, there has been a decline in community involvement, and this involvement is important in many ways. Volunteerism is a helpful and unselfish way to help lessen the crime rate, joblessness, drug use, and violence of the community. It helps to bring about education, economic boost, and mental and physical well-being.
The authors seem to show a functionalist perspective, in the sense that they are concerned about the amount of civic involvement that people, young and old, contribute to their societies. They examine a panel of people over the span of nine years: late adolescence (aged 18-19) through young adulthood (aged 26-27). They do this to examine the life-stage-specific character of volunteerism. Their research leads them to wonder if the factors which are supposed to motivate adults into volunteerism have the same effect on young people transitioning into adulthood.
The authors’ hypotheses include: “Participation in post-secondary education and educational attainment promote volunteerism during young adulthood.” “Work, marriage, and parenthood come to facilitate volunteerism with time in the work, marital, and parental roles (and as children age). Similarly, earnings come to promote volunteerism with age (and establishment in the work career).”
Month-by-month information of each participant’s family and living situations, schooling, and work, including volunteer activities is collected using a “life history calendar”. They are asked to answer various questions about each variable and include amounts of time for each one. Schooling is measured by how many months each participant attended school during the year for each of the nine years. Work is measured by how many months of full-time paid employment each year for the nine years, as well as how much non-paid volunteer work they had done. Marriage and parenthood are measured by how many months each participant was married to or lived with a spouse and the birth and age of each child. The controlled variables include race (white, non-white) and gender (male, female).
As hypothesized, the authors found from their results that the amount of schooling was significantly related to the amount of volunteering for each participant. The more schooling, the more volunteerism. However, the amount of full-time employment affected the amount of volunteerism negatively. The more full-time work, the less volunteerism. Marriage seemed to neither promote or demote the amount of volunteerism, however, those with young children had lower volunteerism rates than those without children or with post-preschool children. The authors conclude that indeed schooling and work are the leading factors to the amount of volunteerism of a person, but they also concluded that marriage and income are unrelated to the amount of volunteerism.
Overall, in my opinion, the study was well done. Using the longitudinal method was a good way to get the most out of their study and to really see the affects and changes that one goes through during their transition to adulthood. It seems that a lot of times in the news, we only see adults who are volunteering, aged older than these groups that were studied. The authors seemed to really “think outside of the box” and look at those young adults who were ignored in a way. A study like this can help communities in deciding whether to foster more volunteer organizations aimed towards their youth in order to promote more volunteerism during their adult years.