volunteer - The Sociological Quarterly ISSN 0038-0253...

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GENETIC VARIATION IN VOLUNTEERISM Joonmo Son* National University of Singapore John Wilson Duke University Research has shown that prosocial behaviors of various kinds are passed from generation to generation, but the role played by genetics in the transmission of volunteerism has been unex- plored. Data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Twins and Siblings samples are used to estimate genetic heritability of hours volunteered per month. Although unique environmental factors of the kind sociologists have traditionally focused upon account for most of the variance, women do owe some of their disposition to perform volunteer work to their genes. There is no genetic effect for men. One of the most intriguing discoveries in the recent research on volunteering is that it tends to run in families. The authors of one recent article referred to this phenomenon as “legacy volunteering”(Mustillo,Wilson,and Lynch 2004).Social scientists are inclined to attribute this pattern of behavior to socialization—parents who volunteer act as role models for their children or are more likely to teach their children altruistic values and prosocial attitudes. They are also more likely to recruit their children into volunteer work as soon as they are capable of it, and it is well known that people who volunteer in their pre-adult years are more likely to volunteer when they become adults.The possibility that there is a biological component to this intergenerational transmission of volunteer work has been largely overlooked. It could be that people literally inherit a disposition to perform volunteer work from their parents. It is in their genes. This article sets out to test this hypothesis using samples of twins and siblings to separate the inFuence of genes from the social environment in which children are raised and become adults. In this respect, it makes a novel contribution to the study of how people become volunteers. THE INTERGENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION OF VOLUNTEERING There is growing evidence that altruistic or prosocial behavior is passed from one generation to another. ±or example, Wilhelm et al. (2008) recently analyzed Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) data to show that adults donate more money to charities if their parents do so. Prosocial behavior could be transmitted through social learning, principally by role modeling on the part of parents, parental approval of appropriate altruistic behaviors, or the teaching of prosocial values. It can also be transmitted indirectly, as when parents provide their children with the human and social capital *Direct all correspondence to Joonmo Son, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, ±aculty of Arts and Social Sciences, AS1 #04-24, 11 Arts Link, Singapore 117570; e-mail: socioson@nus.edu.sg The Sociological Quarterly ISSN 0038-0253 The Sociological Quarterly 51 (2010) 46–64 © 2010 Midwest Sociological Society 46
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needed for volunteer work, when they encourage church attendance (which encourages volunteerism), or when they instill appropriate personality traits.
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2010 for the course PSYCH 101 taught by Professor Mcduffie during the Spring '10 term at CSU San Marcos.

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volunteer - The Sociological Quarterly ISSN 0038-0253...

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