How Ready Are Young Adults to Participate in Community Service? An Application of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change

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Purpose: Engaging in community service, or unpaid work intended to help people in a community, is generally associated with greater overall well-being. However, the process of beginning and maintaining community service engagement has been sparsely examined. The current study applied the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of behavior change to understanding community service readiness among young adults. Design: Cross-sectional design using an online survey. Setting: Participants were undergraduate students recruited at a mid-sized Northeastern US university in Spring 2018. Sample: Participants (N = 314) had a mean age of 20.36 years (SD = 3.69), were primarily White (78%), female (72%), and from moderately high socioeconomic backgrounds (as measured by parental level of education). Measures: Socio-demographics including age, gender, race-ethnicity, and parental level of education; readiness, pros, cons, and self-efficacy for community service; civic engagement behavior; well-being. Analysis: Participants were classified into very low (n = 62), low (n = 59), moderate (n = 92), high (n = 46), and very high (n = 55) readiness for community service groupings. A MANOVA was conducted to assess relationships between groupings and community service TTM constructs, civic engagement, and well-being. Results: There were significant differences between readiness groupings on all main outcome variables, F(20, 1012) = 10.34, p <.001; Wilks’ Λ = 0.54, η2 =.14. Post-hoc Games-Howell tests showed that those exhibiting higher levels of readiness reported fewer cons, greater pros, higher self-efficacy, more overall civic engagement, and greater well-being compared to lower readiness individuals. Conclusion: Consistent with previous TTM applications, self-efficacy and the importance of pros increased across readiness groupings while the importance of cons decreased. Study findings may be used to inform readiness-tailored interventional work for increasing community service. This area of study would benefit from longitudinal research examining community service readiness beyond the college environment.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

American Journal of Health Promotion