Relationships Between Volunteering Functions and Vocational Identity in Emerging Adult Volunteers


Bianca V. Marinica, Self and Identity Development Laboratory, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania
Oana Negru-Subtirica, Self and Identity Development Laboratory, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania


As emerging adults are developing their vocational identity and preparing for a competitive job market, some engage in volunteering as a path towards further vocational exploration and employability enhancement (Roulin & Bangerter, 2013). However, only a few studies have investigated the relationship between volunteering and identity development, without specifically focusing on vocational identity. Therefore, our study aimed to address this gap by focusing on vocational identity and volunteering functions (i.e., reasons for volunteering). Our main goals were: (1) to identify the vocational identity statuses of emerging adults involved in volunteering and (2) to investigate the relationships between these statuses and emerging adults’ volunteering functions.


The final sample comprised 385 Romanian emerging adult volunteers, aged 18 to 29 years (Mage= 21.32, SDage= 2.13). All participants were recruited from youth non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and asked to fill in a questionnaire.

Cluster analyses were performed in order to identify vocational identity statuses, before conducting a Multivariate Analyses of Variance (MANOVA), with cluster membership as independent variable and volunteering functions as dependent variables.


The six vocational identity statuses identified were similar to those obtained by previous studies (e.g., Sestito et al., 2015) and include: searching moratorium, moratorium, achievement, troubled diffusion, carefree diffusion, and foreclosure. Overall, emerging adult volunteers in achievement and moratorium (especially searching moratorium) statuses had the highest scores on all volunteering functions, whereas those in troubled diffusion had the lowest scores on most volunteering functions.


Our findings indicate that volunteering can be an alternative vocational development path, especially for emerging adults in the achievement and searching moratorium statuses, as they display higher vocational exploration (Negru-Subtirica et al., 2018) which they can do through the opportunities provided by volunteering (Gage & Thapa, 2011). However, for emerging adults in the diffusion statuses volunteering might mainly be an accessible way of “getting involved” in their university environment, which aligns with studies which suggest that for some students volunteering is a rather habitual activity (e.g., Holdsworth, 2010). As expected, the specific reasons for volunteering can vary depending on emerging adults’ vocational status and career counselling interventions could integrate these relationships in order to facilitate the development of vocational identity.


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