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Volunteering in adolescence may reduce crime involvement in adulthood

Findings from Add Health in Injury Epidemiology

 

Researchers used Add Health data to investigate the impact of volunteering on crime involvement later in life, as studies have shown that volunteerism or community service can increase levels of prosocial behavior, belonging, and happiness among adolescents. Participants reported their illegal behaviors, arrests, and convictions during Waves III and IV of Add Health. During Wave III, respondents also reported their volunteerism between ages 12 and 18, stating whether the work was strictly voluntary, ordered by a court, or required by parents, school, or religious group.

Between ages 12 and 18, 58% of respondents had not volunteered, 31% were self-volunteers, 8% were adult-required volunteers, and 2.4% were court ordered volunteers. Overall, those who self-volunteered had less involvement in crime than those who did not volunteer: “those who self-volunteered reported 11% fewer illegal behaviors, 31% fewer arrests, and 39% fewer convictions by age 18–28, and 28% fewer illegal behaviors, 53% fewer arrests, and 36% fewer convictions by age 24–34, relative to the non-volunteers.” The authors suggest that adolescent volunteering may increase resilience over time and that school-based volunteering programs may help prevent criminal involvement over the life course.

View the abstract or download the complete article from Injury Epidemiology

Authors

  • Shabbar I. Ranapurwala: Injury Prevention Research Center, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, College of Public Health, University of Iowa; Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Carri Casteel: Injury Prevention Research Center, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, College of Public Health, University of Iowa
  • Corinne Peek-Asa: Injury Prevention Research Center, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, College of Public Health, University of Iowa

 

Ranapurwala SI, Casteel C, and Peek-Asa C. Volunteering in adolescence and young adulthood crime involvement: a longitudinal analysis from the add health study. Injury Epidemiology 2016; 3 (26).