Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Five Investigations were conducted to examine the antecedents of participation in voluntary organizations. The objective of these studies were to identify factors which influence the decision to become a volunteer. While much prior research has been devoted to this subject, his series is distinctive insofar as it examines a broader range of potential determinants, employs longitudinal panel designs and directs particular attention to individual differences in the circumstance, the events and the psychological stares which precede voluntary action.
In the first study, the reasons advanced by individuals to account for their decision to volunteer were examined employing open-ended interview questions and rating scale measures. Consistent with prior research, it was observed that most persons had more than one reason for volunteering. However, application of two statistical reduction techniques revealed that these reasons tended to be given in clusters and that there were three main purposes for joining: (1) Advancements of Career and Personal Goals (2) Social and Situational Compensation (3) Altruism
The second study was designed to explore the relationship between social background factors and the reasons for undertaking voluntary action. This investigation demonstrated that persons with similar social backgrounds often pursue voluntary action for similar purposes. The analysis revealed that students often participate to obtain career experience while unemployed persons and those recently experiencing major life events (e.g. retirement, loss of spouse, change in parental responsibilities), were more likely to volunteer in order to meet people, relieve boredom, and find purpose in life. In addition, while most persons mentioned a desire to help others among their reasons for volunteering, only retired or full-time employed respondents with situational stability (i.e., no recent life events) accentuated the altruistic purpose of their actions in their explanations. These results suggest that social background factors may influence the perceived utility of such pursuits and influence the reasons why people volunteer.
Study three examined the amount of social encouragement to volunteer received by various types of initiators. This investigation revealed that young individuals, persons with less formal education and first time joiners were especially likely to have been persuaded to join. Conversely, elderly persons, those experiencing recent major life events and individuals with previous volunteer experience were considerably less likely to have been persuaded. While prior research has shown that social encouragement is frequently associated with the initiation of voluntary action, this study is the first to assess which types of joiners were most likely to receive encouragement to volunteer.
The fourth and fifth study of this thesis examined the relationship between attitudes toward voluntary action and participation in instrumental voluntary organizations. Study four assessed whether attitudes were predictive of joins which took place after various temporal delays. Attitudes were found to be excellent predictors of participation initiated within one to eight months of an attitude measure, but progressively less predictive of joins occurring after longer delays. Moreover, it was also discovered that attitudes tend to be better long-range predictors when the join was not preceded by a life event and when the individual undertook participation to promote organizational goals rather than personal objectives.
Finally, a three part investigation was conducted to examine the extent to which attitudes change when individuals become volunteers. Part one was a two-year longitudinal study which demonstrated that attitudes toward voluntary action became significantly more favourable when individuals joined voluntary organizations and significantly less favourable when such activities were terminated. In part two, it was observed that this attitude change occurred before the individuals had joined the organization and changed little once participation had begun. Finally, part three of this investigation indicated that attitudes toward voluntary action generally became more favourable only after the individual had decided to become a volunteer. The implications of these findings with respect to the role of attitudes in the decision to volunteer are discussed.
Throughout these studies, individual differences in the determinants of these activities were repeatedly noted. It is crucial that investigators direct increased attention to these differences in the development of their models of volunteer motivation. To assist in this regard, a model is presented which accommodates individual variation in the antecedents of participation and provides a conceptual framework in which to consider the significance of various antecedents of this phenomenon.
Lang, David A., "The Motivational Bases of Voluntary Action" (1984). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3286.