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«Running Head: Assessment of volunteerism in Chinese adolescents Keywords: Volunteerism, Chinese, Scale development, Personal Functions Exploration of ...»

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Running Head: Assessment of volunteerism in Chinese adolescents

Keywords: Volunteerism, Chinese, Scale development, Personal Functions

Exploration of the factorial structure of the Revised Personal Functions of the

Volunteerism Scale for Chinese adolescents

Ben M.F. Law1

Daniel T.L. Shek2,3,4

Cecilia M.S. Ma2

of Social Work, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; 2Department of Applied Social


Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong; 3Department of Sociology, East China Normal University, Shanghai; 4Kiang Wu Nursing College of Macau Abstract Participation in volunteer services can be regarded as an indicator of quality of life among adolescents. The Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) has long been used to assess the underlying motives of volunteers. Owing to conceptual, methodological and empirical limitations, the VFI could not be fully endorsed to understand Chinese adolescent volunteerism. Another scale was devised, called the Revised Personal Functions of the Volunteerism Scale (R-PFVS). This study focused on the exploration of the factorial structure of the R-PFVS. The R-PFVS was administered to a large sample of Chinese adolescents (N = 5, 946). Data were split into two halves: one for exploratory factor analysis and the other for confirmatory factor analysis. The scale showed good factorial validity. Seven factors were revealed, namely, well-being, learning, socializing, pro-social competence, altruistic concern, future plan, and civic responsibility functions. The factors were highly correlated with each other. A second-order factor model was established, and all seven factors were loaded on this higher-order


factor. The R-PFVS subscales and the overall scale demonstrated good internal consistency. The findings were compared with the VFI.

The R-PFVS can be used in assessing the underlying motives behind volunteerism among Chinese adolescents and in studies on the quality of life.

For more than 10 years, the Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) has been used to assess the underlying motives of volunteers (Clary et al., 1998). Despite its popularity in the literature and wide use in social services (e.g., Clary et al., 1994;

Kim, Zhang, & Connaughton, 2010; Omoto & Snyder, 1993, 1995; Wu, Lo, & Liu, 2009), this paper argues that its conceptual framework, the resulting empirical findings, and the instrument itself have some limitations; hence, it cannot be directly used to measure the volunteering motives of Chinese adolescents. Law (2008) had revised the VFI and added other items to form a new scale, producing the Revised Personal Functions of the Volunteerism Scale (R-PFVS). The R-PFVS can measure adolescents’ underlying motives to volunteer more accurately. Following that study by Law (2008), this paper further explores the factorial structure of the R-PFVS.

Volunteer service refers to “an activity that is not undertaken for financial gain. It is undertaken out of one’s own free will. The activity is arranged by a formal agency.

It brings benefits to the third party as well as to volunteers. The third party does not include family members, friends, and neighbors” (Law, 2008, p.6). Volunteerism and social development are closely related. One aim of community development is to facilitate cooperation in the community through volunteerism (Midgley & Livermore, 1998). Many services would not be possible without the participation of volunteers.

Several social work values and ideals, notably social justice, service, dignity, and empowerment, are actualized through participation (Finn & Checkoway, 1998; Kahle & Westheimer, 1996). In addition, adolescent volunteerism is an integral part of positive youth development. Adolescents can attain social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and moral competence through service (Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 2004; Pittman, Irby, & Ferber, 2001; Shek, 2007; Youniss, McLellan, & Mazer, 2001). Research shows that prosocial behavior, such as participation in volunteer service, is closely related to the emotional quality of life of adolescents (Sun & Shek, 2010). In fact, adolescents around the world are actively participating in volunteer services (Commission on Youth, 1998; Flanagan, Jonsson, & Botchera, 1999; Hodgkinson, 1995; Independent Sector, 2010). In Hong Kong, around 53.4 percent of adolescents have served the community for 12 months (Law & Shek, 2009a), and this is a significant figure. Most of the services are offered by the social work sector (Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 2001; Liu, Holosko, & Lo, 2009). Examining volunteerism among adolescents is thus related to social development, youth development, and social services for the youth.

Given the importance of volunteer service participation by adolescents, one pertinent concern for youth workers and researchers is motivating adolescents to become volunteers (initiation) and sustaining their participation (continuation) (e.g., Chapman & Morley, 1999; Ellis, 2002; Marta, Rossi, & Boccacin, 1999; Rious & Penner, 2001; Snyder, Clary, & Stukas, 2000). The cognitive motivational approach (Kruglanski, 1996) suggests that our motives are the foundation of our behavior.

Understanding motives can shed light on the practical implications of volunteerism.

Cnaan and Goldberg-Glen (1991) proposed that people volunteer because of a combination of various motives, suggesting a unitary motive approach. On the other hand, Latting (1990) proposed that people volunteer because of self-centered and other-centered motives, suggesting a dual motive approach.

One seminal work on the exploration of underlying motives is the Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) (Clary et al., 1998). Functionalism asserts that a person volunteers because volunteering brings certain purposes or functions to him/her.

Although services may be similar on the surface, different people volunteer with different underlying beliefs, purposes, or perceived functions (Katz, 1960; Smith, Bruner, & White, 1956). These functions are the motives behind participation. If we know the underlying functions (motives) of volunteers, then we will know the ways of attracting them into volunteering and to sustain their participation. VFI is a scale commonly used to assess the functions of volunteerism (Clary et al., 1998). The six functions of volunteers according to the VFI are (1) pro-social values function (volunteers express pro-social values related to altruistic concerns for others); (2) understanding function (volunteers acquire skills and knowledge from the service); (3) career function (the experience of volunteer service is beneficial to volunteers’ career pursuit); (4) social function (volunteers are influenced by the people around them to participate in service); (5) enhancement function (volunteers have more positive self-worth); and (6) protective function (volunteers forget personal problems and other negative feelings).

According to Clary et al. (1998), factor analyses show that six factors corresponding to the aforementioned functions can be extracted, and these factors are stable across two random samples of volunteers (coefficients of congruence of the sub-scales range from.93 to.97). In addition, the VFI and its subscales are internally consistent (alphas range from.80 to.89). VFI has been applied in the study of adult volunteers and older volunteers (Clary et al., 1998). The translated scale was already applied to Hong Kong university students (Wu et al., 2009). VFI has been intentionally applied to attract volunteers with high scores of particular functions to serve through the corresponding advertised messages (Clary et al., 1994; Clary, Snyder, & Stukas, 1996). The instrument has also been used to entice adult volunteers to work with possibly stigmatized service recipients, such as AIDS patients (Omoto & Snyder, 1993; 1995).

VFI outperforms its earlier counterparts because of its vigorous conceptual approach and psychometrically sound measures. Proposed motives are sporadically reported in different study areas, such as on prosocial values (Yates & Youniss, 1996;

Penner & Finkelstein, 1998), learning (Omoto & Snyder, 2002), enhancement in job markets and educational endeavors (Andolina, Jenkins, Keeter, & Zukin, 2002), psychological enhancement (Magen, 1998; Carlo & Randall, 2002), and peer socialization (Bales, 1996; Dworkin, Larson, & Hansen, 2003). The functional approach, with its overarching metaframework, can succinctly summarize major underlying motives among volunteers.

Can the scale be fully endorsed to measure the motives of adolescents if we are interested in understanding the phenomenon in Chinese communities? This question is critical. If the measured findings are not entirely representative to the phenomenon, the conceptual and practical implications from the findings may not be totally meaningful. For instance, if there are additional motives other than those proposed by the VFI, the instrument cannot detect those additional motives. In fact, Law (2008) expressed his skepticism and advanced his conceptual, methodological, and empirical arguments.

Conceptually, there are three major limitations in measuring the underlying motives of Chinese adolescents behind volunteerism. First, factors in the VFI were actually borrowed from the literature on attitudes (Katz, 1960; Smith, Bruner, & White, 1956), which focuses on exploring universal underlying motives (or functions) towards the same surface behavior. The quest for some universal functions across different types of behavior in the literature on attitudes may have neglected some distinctive features of volunteerism. For instance, civic responsibility is a primary feature of volunteerism all over the world (e.g., Flanagan et al., 1999; Law & Shek, 2009a; Marta et al., 1999; Wilson, 2000). It is not mentioned in the literature on attitudes, and thus it was not used in the VFI. Second, Clary and his colleagues published the VFI in the 1990s (Clary et al., 1998), although its framework was actually established in the 1960s (Katz, 1960; Smith et al., 1956). It should be noted that research and theoretical advancement in altruism and cognitive reasoning flourished in the 1980s (Batson, Ahmad, & Tsang, 2002; Davis, 1996; Dovidio, 1991).

New or more refined factors, which emerged from these updated and topic-relevant studies, might have been neglected in the formulation of the VFI. Barnett, Thompson, and Schroff (1987) have long argued that “incompetence” accounts for unhelpful behavior among early adolescents. Prosocial values consist of the dimensions of altruistic concerns and prosocial competence (Eisenberg, Carlo, Murphy, & Van Court, 1995). However, prosocial competence is not examined in the VFI. Third, if we want to measure the motives of Chinese adolescents, both “cultural” and “adolescent” perspectives should be considered. The Chinese tend to view happiness and unhappiness as two sides of the same coin (Lu, 2001). There are two distinctive functions in the VFI: “enhancement” and “protective” functions. However, in the Chinese context, these two discrete functions in the VFI can be merged into one function. In addition, Chinese culture encourages adolescents to give top priority to helping their own families (Lau & Kuan, 1995). Family-related collective behavior is a distinctive type of in-group collectivism (Realo, Allik, & Vadi, 1997). In-group collectivism does not often support help out-groups (Triandis & Suh, 2002), while volunteerism involves helping out-groups. Thus, the VFI does not consider the cultural dimension of helping. Further, adolescents spend more time with peers, and the peer system is becoming more important in adolescent development (Hartup, 2005). Through participation, adolescents get along and socialize with peers. They tend to consider whether their peers will join the service and whether they will accept or praise the activity. This is an important motivation for adolescents in volunteering (i.e., getting along with peers) not considered in the VFI. One may argue the social function in the VFI includes this purpose (Clary et al., 1998). However, this VFI function in fact refers to the influence from people around volunteers, which cannot represent the distinctive “socializing” purpose of adolescents.

The VFI scale itself was initially developed for adult volunteers in the West;

hence, it may not be fit for all. Specifically, some items do not completely fit Chinese adolescents. First, some items are not suitable to respondents with no service experience, such as VFI Item 8 [I am truly concerned about the organization which I am working for (italics added)]. Some items should be modified to the life experiences of adolescents, such as VFI Item 10 [I can make new contacts that might help my business or career (italics added)]. The instrument should be modified if we want to measure the general beliefs of Chinese adolescents about volunteerism.

Further, the VFI adopted a 7-point Likert Scale (1 = not at all important; 7 = extremely important), with a middle neutral answer. Chinese respondents tend to choose the neutral answer (Law, 2008). Then the scale cannot detect whether respondents agree or disagree with certain items. The scale sensitivity in measuring motives is reduced. An even-numbered Likert scale is thus preferred so that the responding tendency can be assessed.

There is a need to refine the VFI. VFI Item 29 (Volunteering is a way to make new friends) had low loading under the “enhancement” function in Clary et al. (1998).

They did not report the factor loadings of this item under other functions. Thus, an alternative explanation cannot be proposed. In fact, Item 29 was again reported to be problematic in Wu et al. (2009) in their validation studies. In Study 2 of Clary et al.

(1998), some loading scores are below.40 (e.g., Items 12 and 29). They also did not report the factor loading scores of all items, preventing readers from getting the full picture. The factor structure may not be completely stable. In addition, Okun, Barr, and Herzog (1998) argued the possibility of a higher order factor overlying the primary factors. This second-order model has not been verified. Most importantly, the VFI has not been used to explore the phenomenon of adolescent volunteerism. The first author of this paper worked with the youth in Hong Kong for more than 10 years.

From his observation and experience, the underlying motives of adolescent volunteerism as depicted in the VFI may not entirely be accurate.

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