Volunteerism and arrest in the transition to adulthood

Christopher Uggen, Jennifer Janikula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Tocqueville ([1835] 1956) posited that "by dint of working for one's fellow citizens, the habit and taste for serving them is at length acquired" (197). Informal social control theories similarly suggest that voluntary service gradually draws persons to virtue. Are volunteers less likely to breach the social contract? This article estimates the effects of volunteer experiences on the occurrence and timing of arrest using data from the Youth Development Study, a prospective longitudinal survey of 1,000 adolescents. After statistically controlling for the effects of antisocial propensities, prosocial attitudes and behavior, and commitments to conventional lines of action, we find a robust negative relationship between volunteer work and arrest. We then investigate age dependencies in the nature and effect of volunteer work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-362
Number of pages32
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

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