Uggen, Christopher and Jennifer Janikula. 1999. “Volunteerism and Arrest in the Transition to Adulthood.” Social Forces 78:331-62.




Volunteer work appears to have many beneficial effects on the volunteer. Among these are increased self-acceptance (King, Walder and Pavey 1970), instrumentality (Logan 1985), and civic identity (Johnson, Beebe, Mortimer and Snyder 1998; Serow 1990; Youniss, McLellan, and Yates 1997). In addition to these psychological effects, volunteer work also promotes prosocial actions, such as helping behavior (Oesterle, Johnson, and Mortimer 1998; Wilson and Musick 1997a) and political participation (Hanks 1981). Social observers since Tocqueville [1835] have posited that volunteerism would also reduce antisocial or criminal behavior. Yet, few investigations have assessed the effects of volunteering on crime among a general sample of adolescents and young adults. Prior research has generally been limited to problem behaviors such as teen pregnancy and dropout (Allen, Kuperminc, Philliber, and Herre 1994; Moore and Allen 1996; Weissberg, Caplan, and Harwood 1991), or to studies of offender populations (Hanson 1985; Morris 1970; Nirel, Landau, Sebba, and Sagiv 1997; Young, Gartner, O’Connor, Larson, and Wright 1995), or to volunteer services provided to (rather than by) youth (Frazier 1983; Schondel, Boehm, Rose, and Marlowe 1995). This paper is the first to test whether volunteer work reduces the likelihood of arrest in early adulthood among a representative community sample of youth.