MIAD BRIDGE Defining Service Learning
EVERY SEPARATION IS A LINK
THE INTERPLAY OF TRAITS AND MOTIVES ON VOLUNTEERING
VOLUNTEERING AND MENTAL HEALTH IN CHILDREN
. . . c o n t e n t s ...CONTENTS
EVERY SEPARATION IS A LINK .............................................................. 4 a look into the empathetic side of service learning
THE INTERPLAY OF TRAITS AND MOTIVES ON VOLUNTEERING..................................................... 10 a scientific study on the characteristics of volunteers
VOLUNTEERING AND MENTAL HEALTH IN CHILDREN.......................................................... 17 effects of volunteering on children
In Every Issue
Letter from the Editor ....................... 3 Impact ................................................ 3 Readers Reflect ..................................16
Letter From the
editor You don’t need to be a psychologist to understand the dynamics between human beings. The authors in this magazine use their differences as writers to dig deep into research and writing to understand the motivation (or lack there of ) within people who consider volunteer work. For this issue of MIAD Bridge, I chose to define the concept of service learning and volunteer work in relation to psychological characteristics of the human race. The three featured articles are very diversely written, but explain the scientific attributes to the reasons we interact with each other
the way that we do, specifically in terms of community service. The whimsical illustrations and muted photographs represent the more free flowing characteristics of the human mind and the capricious traits that differ within us all.
An early learning childhood group is being formed at
A volunteer position with St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mequon,
Westpark Elementary School in Cedarburg, Wisconsin this
Wisconsin has opened up for working with in-home care for
summer. The group is meant to help children with learn-
senior citizens. Non-medical care services include personal
ing or social disabilities become integrated and comfortable
care, companionship and supervision, as well as help in the
with the kids they will be having class with in the fall. Run
home with the tasks of daily living such as meal prepara-
by David Eichenhofer and aided by teachers and volunteers,
tion, medication reminders, laundry, housekeeping, errands,
the group provides games and activities appropriate for all of
shopping, transportation, and companionship. For more
the children and an exciting/engaging social and learning en-
information please contact Fritz Potter at 555-697-9987 or
vironment. Volunteers are expected to interact with the kids.
visit the St. Joseph website: stjoesinhomecare.com.
For more information on how to get involved, please contact Allie Eichenhofer at 555-707-7097.
O p p o rtun i ti e s to Vo l unt eer Lo ca lly 3
Step Back and
Every sep•a•ra•tion is a link. Simone Weil Step back and look at the world. It’s such a strange thing, and incredible and beautiful, but rolling across that great sphere is also turmoil. Much of existence, perceived through the eyes of a human, is sorrow and violence, manifesting itself in multitudes of particular guises - war, poverty, famine, prejudice, crime, etc. But we’re stuck here. So, for the sake of being here, of living, how do we make it better? How do we go about diminishing these problems? Where can we possibly start? Underlying most of them, when the complications and differences are for the moment, stripped away, is something simple. For whatever reason, amidst the accumulated confusion of contemporary human life, we fall into the denial or hatred of another human being. We know that humans are at once imperfect and magnificent. What is difficult is accepting the imperfect as inevitable, and forgiving it in ourselves so that we can forgive it in others. There is so much
sameness, if we decide to become aware of it. Our genetic code, which means our basic anatomical structure, which means our physiological functions, are fundamentally identical. We have the capacity to empathize with one another, and we need to use this. What I am saying is obviously nothing new. But the fact that it has survived thus far in the course of human civilization only serves to testify to its solidarity. It is simple, but I think it has profound implications. In all the world’s major religions, the basic tenet, the “Golden Rule,” is the same. We should “Do unto others what we would have done unto us.” Although this is drawn from religion and may seem idealistic, it’s tenets are at base, human, and extend to the nature of our experience in everyday life. For example, how can we expect others to have respect for our own views if we do not respect theirs? And how can we expect to get anything out of a conversation if we don’t try to understand what the other person is
Written by Isabel Kent
trying to get across? A sense of empathy, as current research in neuroscience and psychology is finding, really does permeate our lives. Without having to will a conscious decision, we register the body language and facial expressions of those around us. We are able to base this in our own experience and realize the analogous intentions behind the behavior of others. So what happens when empathy ceases to function? On an individual scale, this can be a major component of closed-mindedness, arguments, and physical fights. Cases in point are bullying, whether at school or over the internet, domestic violence, and gang violence. Among larger groups this is exhibited in similar ways, largely as prejudice against, and mistreatment and/or suppression of, another people. Extreme cases are genocide and war. Canâ€™t these be seen as large-scale manifestations of the inability to take anotherâ€™s perspective? I donâ€™t mean to oversimplify these grand issues. There are certainly
various other complications that come into play. Many of these complications, however, could be explained as themselves arising partially as a consequence of lack of understanding between people. Circumstances like these coalesce and build upon each other, eventually forming one mass conflict, which leads to atrocities. A clash occurs when we see an individual or group as other than ourselves, that we disagree with so fervently that it appears foreign enough to be designated as wrong or even evil. To protect ourselves we often feel the need to do something to suppress that other. If these notions push further into action, physical harm is done. The thoughts themselves however, are already silently germinating this view of the world. In turn, this obviously impacts the deeds one carries out. If one continues this way unawares, the effects will only multiply. But the human brain is malleable (Boroditsky 6). Biases can be turned around if they are brought to
one’s attention. The problem is that maybe reminders are not prevalent in our everyday lives. We may see images of war on the news, but this is perhaps not specific enough. We still watch through our own tinted lenses, maybe as a proponent of one or the other of the conflicting sides. What should be emphasized is the nature of the core disagreement, how and why it exists, perhaps that it should not exist, and what the resolution may be. We also need to be made more aware of our own slant and the perspective we are missing in our repertoire. Once we can see all involved outlooks more holistically, we notice their inherent sameness, and the ensuing ridiculousness of antagonism. To illustrate a concrete example of a social issue involving the inability to take on another perspective, consider the rift between the wealthiest and poorest classes in the United States. My estimation is that much of the very wealthy are so adapted to their way of living that they are not aware of the vast struggles of the impoverished. They must know that the poor do in fact exist, but they cannot put themselves in that situation, because they have never been there and do not relate to it experientially, and they also probably feel no reason to make attempts to do so. They are so comfortable where they are. Whatever charities may be goading them to donate are just an annoyance. The thought of taking on the vantage of the poor does not cross their mind, at least not with any great urgency. And frankly, it would just be too much effort. But if something were to make them, imagine the impact it could have. If the wealthy were made to live like the poor, or to just experience a small part of such a life, perhaps they would realize how awful it can be. To know that they personally would not want to be in a position of poverty may be enough for them to conclude that since there are other humans that are in that place, they need to be helped. The prior example becomes an issue of human
rights. Throughout the world, the poor lack many basic entitlements of life because they are bound by their circumstances. In extreme conditions, there is lack of adequate shelter and nourishment to even stay alive. When the pressure of mortality is so present, anything beyond the necessities of life must seem frivolous. Furthermore, although it varies depending on the specific location, opportunities in jobs, education, and all areas of life, are in scarce supply. Law and justice may be seen as concepts created for the purpose of treating all equally in discernment of right or wrong action, in protecting individuals from mistreatment, and overall, to keep human society as a whole in order and running smoothly. But they are also founded on an emotional groundwork. Humans are innately social, require contact with others for health and well-being, and have built society based on the ability to operate in a network. For this to function properly, cooperation between people is essential. And in order for this to occur, we need to at least have respect for the views of others. This is not to say that it will be perfect. Dilemmas will inevitably arise. The paradox is that once we acknowledge human imperfection, the dilemmas are much less common. Throughout this entire process, empathy aids us. In 2009, President Obama propounded the qualifications he deemed necessary for successors to the Supreme Court. He included everything one might expect: extensive legal experience, a spotless ethical record, and dedication to the rule of law (Garrett 1). However, Obama also added empathy. He stated, I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles, as an
What is difficult is accepting the im•per•fect as inevitable, and forgiving it in ourselves so that we can forgive it in others.
MIAD Bridge essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes. (Garrett 1). When a predicament comes to the fore, empathy helps us determine a just solution. Yes, we do have to rely on written law as a solid standard, but we also must be considerate of the circumstances under which the individuals involved acted. Maybe someone acted wrongly, did something that is illegal, but maybe it was because they were facing such plight, that for them at that time, it was the best decision. We need to be understanding of this. A person who may endanger others cannot be dismissed, but they also cannot be punished for being human. In all cases, beyond categorization of wronged and wrong-doer, and because all of us are really both, we need to be able to see an individualâ€™s suffering and act out of compassion in an effort to correct it. This in itself serves to connect. In it is a realization that we are all human and that we all share the same life. The nature of how we view and interact with others has directed culture, politics, economics, and human society as a whole, which also extends to our impact on the environment. All of these things provide us with a striking image of how we participate in and create our world. This web of inter-relationships has biological foundations, into which current studies surrounding the nature of the human nervous system have brought new insights. A region toward the front of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex, or MPFC, activates when we are pondering our own feelings, but also when we are thinking about or observing those same feelings in another (Boroditsky 5). More specifically, a class of cells called mirror neurons, which are located in various areas of the brain, have been found to direct our ability to read not only another personâ€™s actions, but also the intentions and emotions behind them. In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neuroscientist at the University of Parma
credited with some of the first research of these structures in the 1990’s, was quoted in saying, “We are exquisitely social creatures. Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions, and emotions of others. Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation” (Blakeslee 1). Here is very real evidence of just how connected we are. In a sense we can simultaneously experience the thoughts and actions of another. This also poses the intimate connectivity of thought, action, and language. These cells fire when one performs an action, sees another carrying out that action, hears it happening, says the word for that action, or hears that word (Blakeslee 1). Mirror neurons can be seen as the meeting place of these different avenues, which all allow for understanding between people, and are essentially linked as a means of communication whose framework is emotional. It is also important to note that social emotions like shame, pride, embarrassment, and so on, are centered in a uniquely human mirror neuron system in a brain region called the insula. In a study conducted by Dr. Christian Keysers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, it was found that when people watched a hand go to caress someone and then saw another hand push it away, this region registered the pain of rejection. Moreover, he noted that humiliation appeared to be “mapped in the brain by the same mechanisms that encode real physical pain” (Blakeslee 3). This just goes to show us that when someone is suffering from emotional trauma, they are also really ailing from physical distress. When mirror neurons malfunction, an emotional level of communication ceases to occur. It is now thought that this is a major cause of Autism and Aspberger’s disease. Autistic individuals are often cited as sort of living in their own world, or being
Illustrations by Robert Walsh
MIAD Bridge highly antisocial. It could be that the neural basis of social abilities is lacking, and they therefore are significantly unable to relate to other people. Studies show that these individuals can identify an emotional facial expression, and even imitate it, but they do not feel its emotional significance (Blakeslee 2). A similar effect is seen in individuals with Aspberger’s, who are unable to read facial expressions and vocal inflections, recognize sarcasm, and also cannot understand figurative language. They interpret everything logically and literally. For individuals with either disorder, everyday life is made extremely difficult simply because they cannot adequately relate socially and emotionally to other people. The importance of empathy is apparent. It lends us the competence to recognize that other viewpoints must be just as valid as our own. Scientific research has provided us with more clues as to how and why this phenomenon operates, and has given us greater insight into how incredible this biological capacity truly is. The complexity and social grounding of our empathy is something uniquely human. It lies behind much of our daily decisions and behavior, and is one of the key components of how we have developed as a society. Truly, it needs to exist for us to exist. All of this serves to remind us of empathy’s profundity. But what teaches us most is the face-to-face encounter in which we share a real and fathomless humanness with another.
a•gree•a•ble•ness Well-Being 4.2 4.1 43.9 3.8 3.7 3.6 3.5 3.4 -
High Relative Conflict Frequency (Weekly)
Empathy can easily be related to agreeableness. The agreeableness characteristic in the human spectrum of traits is a “tendency to be pleasant and accommodating in social situations” (online dictionary). In contemporary personality psychology, agreeableness is related to the support of individual differences in concern for cooperation and social harmony.  People who are agreeable are also often empathetic, considerate, friendly, generous, and helpful. Not only do these people
References: Blakeslee, Sandra. “Cells That Read Minds.” The New York Times. The New York Times Co. 10 Jan. 2006. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. Boroditsky, Lera. “Empathy and Other Mysteries.” American Scholar. 80.1 (2011): 44-52. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Apr. 2011. Garret, Major. “Obama Pushes for ‘Empathetic’ Supreme Court Justices.” FoxNews.com. Fox News Network, LLC. 1 May 2009. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.
project positive traits, they also tend to believe that others are capable of obtaining them as well. Studies show that people who live this way are generally happier and more satisfied with life. They also tend to stay calm and deal with conflict better than most.
Graziano, W.G., & Eisenberg, N. (1997). Agreeableness; A dimension of personality. In R. Hogan, S. Briggs, & J. Johnson, (1997). Handbook of Personality Psychology. San Diego, CA: Academic Press
of Traits and Motives on Vol•un•teer•ing Agreeableness, Extraversion and Prosocial Value Motivation
All images are of Abbey Gregorash in her volunteer environment. Photos taken by Allie Eichenhofer
During the past 20 years, there has been a renaissance
and inconsistently significant relations have been posited
of interest in personality and motivational concepts in
(Carlo, Knight, Eisenberg, & Rotenberg, 1991; Eisenberg,
personality and social psychology (Little, 1983). Scholars
1986; Kenrick & Funder, 1988; Knight, Johnson, Carlo, &
continue to develop conceptual models to account for the
Eisenberg, 1994). First, investigators may not have focused
links between traits, motives, and behaviors. Traits and
upon the traits that are conceptually most relevant to the
motives can be conceptualized as representing diﬀerent
speciﬁc social behavior being studied. Second, the relations
levels of personality functioning (McAdams, 1994;
between traits and social behaviors may be mediated by
McClelland, 1985a). McCrae and Costa (1999) posited
motives. Third, traits might interact with other traits to
that traits are “enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and
jointly inﬂuence motives, which in turn, are causally more
actions...” (p. 140). Traits are organized hierarchically from
proximal to social behaviors. Fourth, traits might interact
narrow to broad traits. At the broadest level, researchers
with motives to jointly inﬂuence social behaviors.
have identified ﬁve common traits: agreeableness, extraversion, openness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness.
With regard to the ﬁrst explanation, Graziano and
Motives reﬂect the tendency to strive for a general class of
Eisenberg (1997) suggest that agreeableness might be the
incentives that are highly fused with aﬀect (McClelland,
core dispositional trait contributing to prosocial behaviors.
1985b). Several classes of motives have been identiﬁed
Agreeable individuals are altruistic, straight-forward,
in the research literature on volunteering (Clary et al.,
trusting, soft-hearted, modest, and compliant (Graziano.
1998; Okun, Barr, & Herzog, 1998). However, the relations
1994; McCrae & Costa, 1999). There is empirical evidence of
between traits and social behaviors are often relatively
the link between agreeableness and prosocial behaviors (see
modest in magnitude (cf., Bem & Funder, 1978; Kenrick &
Graziano & Eisenberg. 1997). Furthermore, researchers have
Funder, 1988). This is also the case for the relations between
found significant positive relations between agreeableness
personality traits and volunteering behavior (Omoto &
and volunteering (e.g., Smith & Nelson, 1975). Similarly,
Snyder, 1995). Several explanations for the relatively modest
extraversion is associated with sociability, gregariousness,
Morris A. Okun+
Maria Rosario T. de Guzman*
* University of Nebraska-Lincoln + Arizona State University
assertiveness, positive emotions, warmth, and activity
may value prosocial behaviors. In the present study we
(McCrae & Costa, 1999); and has been shown to predict
examined the degree to which the eﬀects of agreeableness
volunteering (Burke & Hall, 1986; Kosek, 1995; Smith &
and extraversion on volunteering behavior were mediated by
Nelson, 1975). Because volunteerism often requires extensive
prosocial value motives.
social interactions, scholars have linked it to extraversion (e.g., Burke & Hall, 1986). Hence, in the present study we
With regard to the third explanation, extraverted individuals
have made predictions regarding the relations of personality
seek warm and positive social interactions, but these desires
traits (i.e., agreeableness and extraversion) that are clearly
really facilitate volunteering behavior when combined with
conceptually related to a social behavior (i.e., volunteering).
the altruistic orientation inherent in agreeableness. Further,
Speciﬁcally, we predict that agreeableness and extraversion
this joint eﬀect may be mediated through prosocial value
will be positively associated with volunteering behavior.
motivation as described above. Therefore, we also examined the degree to which the interaction eﬀect of agreeableness
With regard to the second explanation, scholars have noted
and extraversion on volunteering behavior was mediated by
that traits may be indirectly related to social behaviors. A
prosocial value motives.
number of possible mediating variables have been posited that might help account for the relations between traits and
With regard to the fourth explanation, extraversion may
prosocial behaviors such as volunteering. Among those
provide the aﬃliative disposition needed to volunteer.
possible mediating variables are motives. Clary and his
However, volunteerism may be jointly determined by
associates (Clary et al., 1998) identiﬁed a set of six motives
whether there is a match between the personality traits
for volunteering including: career enhancement, learning
associated with volunteerism and the motives that are most
new skills, social interaction, escape from negative feelings,
salient (Carlo, Allen, & Buhman, 1999; Clary & Snyder,
personal development, and expressing prosocial values.
1999). For example, extraverted individuals may be more
Of these motives, the prosocial value motive to volunteer
likely to volunteer than introverted individuals only when
(hereafter referred to as prosocial value motive) is clearly
their prosocial value motivation is high. Prosocial value
conceptually related to volunteering because it reﬂects the
motives are conceptually related to individual diﬀerences
endorsement of care-based values to voluntarily assist others
in sympathy (see Graziano & Eisenberg, 1997) which are
(Allison, Okun, & Dutridge, 2002; Clary et a]., 1998; Clary
linked to prosocial behaviors including altruism (Batson,
& Orenstein, 1991; Okun, 1994; Omoto & Snyder, 1995;
1999; Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998; Staub, 1978). Consequently,
Penner & Finkelstein, 1998). Further, both agreeableness
we examined the degree to which prosocial value motivation
and extraversion reﬂect a positive orientation towards
moderates the relation extraversion and volunteering.
others, which conceptually forges a link between these personality dispositions and prosocial value motives. Hence, it is reasonable to presume that individuals who are altruistic, trusting, warm, and emotionally positive
A•gree•a•ble•ness might be the core dispositional trait contributing to prosocial behaviors.
MIAD Bridge higher openness to experience scores, than students without missing data. Sample biases were weak in magnitude of eﬀect and sparse. The ﬁnal sample consisted of 796 undergraduates (Median age = 19 years; 56% were women; 75% were White, non-Hispanic, 8% were Hispanic, 5% were Asian, 3% were African American). 2.2. Measures
We created a measure of volunteering based upon responses to four items. Students were asked whether they had ever volunteered (0 = no, 1 = yes), were currently volunteering (0 = no, 1 = yes), planned on volunteering during the next two months (0 = no, 1 = yes), and the likelihood that they would volunteer at the campus-based community service program if asked (0 = deﬁnitely no, 1 = probably no, 2 = maybe, 3 = probably yes, and 4 = deﬁnitely yes). Students were provided the following deﬁnition of volunteering:
“By volunteering, we mean performing a service without compensation for an organization or agency. This may include church/religious groups, social service agencies,
schools, not-for-proﬁt organizations (e.g., American Red
A sample of 849 college students was drawn from 1,272
Cross), cause-oriented organizations (e.g., a political
students enrolled in sections of Introduction to Psychology
campaign and/or environmental conservation group), or for
at a large southwestern state university. Students completed
proﬁt corporation (e.g., hospital)”. The percentage of students
a battery of measures in classes as a prelude to participating
who ever volunteered, were currently volunteering, and
in studies that can be used to fulﬁll a course requirement. To
planned on volunteering in the next two months were 90%,
reduce respondent burden, students were randomly assigned
19%, and 45%, respectively. The mean rating for likelihood
to one of three versions of the battery with the constraint
of volunteering at the campus- based community program if
that approximately one-third of the students received each
asked was 2.20 (SD = 0.98).
version of the battery. To determine whether a composite index of volunteer To assess sample biases, we compared students in the sample
behavior could be created, a principal components analysis
with those who were not in the sample on demographic
was carried out after standardizing the scores on the
and main variables. Students in the sample had significantly
four items. The results of this analysis indicated that the
lower prosocial value motivation to volunteer than students
eigenvalue for the ﬁrst factor was 1.81. The eigenvalues
who were not in the sample Similarly, we compared students
for the remaining factors were all below 1.00. The lowest
in the sample who had missing data with those who did not
factor loading on the ﬁrst factor was 0.52. Factor scores
and found that students with missing data had significantly
were created using the regression method. Higher scores
indicate greater involvement in volunteering. Furthermore,
As scores on each scale increase, individuals are describing
prior studies have shown validity evidence for self-report,
themselves as being higher on each personality dimension.
aggregate measures of about past, present, and future
Prior researchers have presented adequate evidence of the
volunteerism (e.g., Clary et al.,1998; Penner & Finkelstein,
reliability and validity of the BFI scales (Benet-Martinez &
John, 1998; Okun & Finch, 1998).
2.2.2. Prosocial Value Motive We employed the Value-Expressive Scale from the Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) to assess prosocial value motive (Clary, Snyder. & Ridge, 1992). Participants indicated on a 7-point scale how important/accurate each of ﬁve prosocial value reasons is for why they volunteer or would be if they were to volunteer (sample item, “I feel compassion toward people in need”). Anchor points on the scale were from: 0 = “not at all important/accurate for you”, through 6 = “extremely important/accurate for you”. Scale scores were formed by averaging the responses to the ﬁve items. Higher scores on the scale are associated with greater prosocial value motive to volunteer. Adequate psychometric properties of this measure have been reported elsewhere (Allison et al., 2002; Clary et al., 1992) 2.2.3. Big Five Traits Traits were assessed used the 44-item version of the Big Five Inventory (John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991 ). This commonly used inventory was originally constructed to allow for the eﬃcient assessment of the big ﬁve dimensions of personality without providing for the more elaborate measurement of
the various facets associated with each dimension (BenetMartinez & John, 1998). BFI items consist of short phrases
3.1. Preliminary Analyses
that are used to assess the most prototypical traits associated
According to our ﬁrst explanation for the inconsistent and
with each of the Big Five dimensions (John et al., 1991).
relatively small relations between personality variables and volunteering, researchers may not have focused on those
In the present study, students indicated how much they
traits that are most conceptually relevant to volunteering.
agreed or disagreed that each statement applied to them.
As predicted, among the Big Five dimensions, agreeableness
Ratings were made on a 9-point scale with anchor points
had the strongest correlation with volunteer behavior,
ranging from 0 = “strongly disagree” to 8 = “strongly agree”.
followed by extraversion. Consistent with our second
A sample item for extraversion was “Outgoing, sociable”, and
explanation, among the Big Five dimensions, agreeableness
a sample item for agreeableness was “Is generally trusting”.
exhibited the strongest correlation with prosocial value
Scale scores were formed by averaging the responses to
motive, followed by extraversion, and prosocial value motive
the items associated with each personality dimension. Th e
was the strongest overall correlate of volunteer behavior
number of items on each scale ranged from 8 (Extraversion
Among the control variables, females had higher prosocial
and Neuroticism) through 10 (Openness to Experience).
value motives and engaged in volunteer behavior to a greater
MIAD Bridge degree than males. The correlations among the
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Agreeableness: a dimension of personality.
of the hypotheses of the present study, it is noteworthy that the correlation between agreeableness and extraversion was modest. 3.2. Data Analytic Approach In testing our second, third, and fourth explanations for the weak and mixed ﬁndings regarding the relation between
are often signiﬁcantly correlated with agreeableness and/or extraversion. In addition, because gender diﬀerences
neuroticism, openness to experience, and conscientiousness. Including neuroticism, openness to experience and
3.3. Testing The Mediation The second possible explanation for the prior weak
prosocial value motive is the strongest predictor of volunteer behavior. We tested this explanation by carrying out two
agreeableness, extraversion, and prosocial value motive. In the second analysis, we regressed prosocial value motives
variables on volunteer behavior whereas the standardized partial regression coeﬃcients (betas) from the second
Graziano, W. G., & Eisenberg, N. H. (1997). In R. Hogan, J. Johnston, John, O.P., Donahue, E.M., Kentle, R. (1991). Th e Big-Five Inventory-Versions
Notes from our readers
about their personal experiences in volunteering and what they’ve
gained along the way
Jack Webster, a psychology graduate undertaking his master’s degree, goes back to school. The
hat turn•a•round really in•spir•ing” PERCENT OF CHILDREN AGES 5-17 WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY (Cdc. Health Data Interactive)
school is Lincoln Middle School of Port Washington, Wisconsin
“When I started the project,
teachers at the school warned
me that I would have a problem getting the boys to stay after
school, and that I would have to
and the reason he’s there is to volunteer his time. Because of his love for children and his drive for psychology related activities, Webster set up
That turn•a•round really in•spir•ing” find ways to motivate them, so I
Upper Class Income
was prepared for that,” Webster
explains. “In the beginning there were problems with temper and
shyness but these were ironed out.
Now the boys eagerly ask about
the next session. That turnaround
is really inspiring. Through this
Middle Class Income
experience, I’ve become really
close with several of the students.
After some tough love and
a peer-mentoring project to help
students with learning disabilities become motivated in school.
Between finishing his degree
at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison and starting his master’s in occupational psychology at
the University of East London, Webster began sessions with
the middle school students at
“That turn•a•round is really in•spir•ing” 16%
inspiring experiences, they now
come to me for personal problems
and heart-to-hearts and I think
they consider me to be someone to
Lower Class Income
Lincoln Middle School to focus on empowering academically
challenged boys through fun and engaging activities.
look up to and take comfort
in talking to.”
vol •un• teer •1ng
By David Eichenhofer
psy Em•pa•thy often develops naturally in children when parents model
behaviors among all students.
vironment, and establish relationships
School Guidance Counselors,
with classmates that often generalize to
altruistic behaviors, openly discuss the
School Psychologists, and School Social
less structured situations (lunchroom,
needs of others, and provide opportu-
Workers, as well as Speech/Language
nities for helping. In situations where
Therapists often provide social skills
In addition to skill acquisition, these
family dynamics are not conducive,
training as part of their work with
students frequently demonstrate
parents are egocentric, or children
special needs students. These related
improved confidence, increased verbal
exhibit mental health difficulties which
service providers often recruit volun-
communication, less anxiety in social
inhibit such development this trait can
teers from students’ classrooms, with
situations, and general mood stability.
be more difficult to establish. Disorders
parental permission, to help establish
Classmates can often model strategies
such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
small groups to facilitate programming.
to cope with frustration and access re-
Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disor-
While the primary intent of these ses-
sources when agitated or confused in a
der, Learning Disabilities, or Autism
sions is to meet the needs of special
range of settings. Depending upon the
Spectrum disorder, among others, can
education students, regular education
nature of the disability, these special
inhibit development. This can further
classmates benefit in many ways also.
education students may also increase
For the special education students,
involve impairment in social aware-
their awareness of social cues and build
ness, self awareness, and empathy
the peer volunteers provide positive
which, left untreated, can impact
role models for social skill develop-
relationships, school performance, and
ment. Peer models provide examples of
the volunteer situation with a strong
community functioning. Providing op-
verbal communication skills, turn tak-
sense of empathy, especially those
portunities, in the educational environ-
ing, initiating social dialogue, resolving
involved in middle and high school
ment, for children to volunteer to help
conflict, patience in social situations,
settings. Programs such as ‘Best
others can foster the development of
and expanded range of interests. Spe-
Buddies’ pair regular education high
empathy, improve relationships with
cial education students develop a sense
school students with their special
peers, and promote a range of prosocial
of inclusion, security in the school en-
education classmates as a means to
empathy for others.
With regard to peers, many enter
tend to be friendly, enjoy
interpersonal relationships, and have higher levels of empathy and concern for the welfare of others.
y• MIAD Bridge
facilitate social interaction, involve-
is also very consistent with many of the
adults who were felt to be at risk for
ment in extra-curricular activities, and
current anti-bullying efforts in the edu-
mental health or behavioral difficulties.
community awareness. In addition
cational system. By helping students
to supports provided to these special
better appreciate diversity, accept dif-
of volunteering among children and
needs students, the peers often report
ferences among others, and establish
adults, it makes sense from an indi-
a sense of inspiration and increased
increased sensitivity for the needs of
vidual and community perspective
confidence and self-esteem themselves.
others, we are likely to see a decrease
to continue to offer opportunities for
Not only do they demonstrate increased
in bullying behavior in social situa-
helping others within the educational
empathy for their special friends, they
tions. In addition, we can increase the
setting. Consult with your school pupil
often experience increased empathy for
number of students willing to advocate
services providers to help establish
others in general. A stronger apprecia-
for victims in those circumstances.
these offerings and work to build
tion for diversity is reported and many
Given the demonstrated benefits
In discussing the benefits of vol-
relationships with community service
students become vocal advocates for
unteering with adults, Aleem (2011)
agencies as well. These opportunities
others across a variety of situations. As
reports improved physical health,
with their special education classmates,
reduced stress, and overall life sat-
these regular education volunteers
isfaction. Increased social interac-
also experience less anxiety in social
tion, improved sense of purpose, and
situations, enhanced confidence, and
stronger self-esteem are also indicated.
improved affect in general. In addi-
Hamilton and Fenzel (1987) found that
tion, many of these volunteers go on to
youth participating in volunteer activi-
helping professions and/or continue to
ties also demonstrate stronger decision
volunteer in schools and communities
making skills, more enjoyable social
as part of their daily lives.
experiences, and a stronger sense of so-
Building empathy, through these and similar volunteering opportunities,
em pa •th
cial responsibility. This was found to be especially true among teens or young
can positively impact the mental health of all students.
Aleem, Yasmeen. “Volunteering and Psychological Health.” Kaplan University. N.p., 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. S.F. Hamilton, and L.M. Fenzel, “The Effect of Volunteer Experience on Early Adolescents’ Social Development” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC, 1987)
Designed and Edited by Allie Eichenhofer