A strong family helps build mental and behavioral fortitude. One study in 2006 analyzed nearly 100,000 adolescent students across the United States and determined that higher frequencies of dinners spent together with family was positively associated with constructive behaviors and negatively associated with high-risk behaviors in children. From these findings and many others, it is clear that the closeness of one’s family is correlated to the quality of one’s health.
Other research has begun to explore the increased benefit that families can earn participating in proactive activities, specifically volunteer work.
With her fellow colleagues, Laura Littlepage, M.P.A., from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, led a study in 2002 that interviewed a small sample of families who actively volunteered their time to the community. Out of 88 individuals, the results detailed that approximately half volunteered with their relatives no less than every few months or so. In addition:
- 67 percent reported an easier time deciding what to do with their lives
- 86 percent reported gaining a new perspective on the world
- 90 percent reported sharing their values with other members of their family
Also, a 2013 case study of a family volunteer program at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, explored the qualitative effects of giving back. Researchers interviewed Sean Devereaux, the manager of volunteer services, who offered his personal view of their program’s impact.
He said, “Parents become connected to their children in new ways and vice versa. The value of service becomes ingrained in the children and they become life-long volunteers. We have many children who have ‘aged out’ of the family volunteer program who now choose to volunteer as an adult or through our teen program.”
How to promote family volunteering
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s national statistics in 2014, the volunteer rate of parents with children under the age of 18 was 31.6 percent. This proportion was higher than the rate for people without minor children, which was 23 percent. Furthermore, the Center for Urban Policy has explained why the volunteer rate of child-rearing parents has declined over the years, citing financial costs, personal costs and a lack of opportunities as primary barriers reported by families.
Research has continually shown that children model their elders’ behaviors. A 2005 report from the Corporation for National and Community Service shows that children also model their volunteerism on their family. As primary role models, parents showed the strongest relationship to teen volunteering rates, followed by other immediate family members such as siblings. This trend was most illustrated by:
- 47 percent of youth with volunteering parents and siblings also volunteered regularly
- 21 percent of youth with only one volunteering parent and no volunteering siblings also volunteered regularly
- 11 percent of youth with no volunteering family members volunteered regularly
Spending quality time with one’s close relations has always been a source of support for people of all backgrounds. By participating in volunteer work together, families can take an extra step and enhance the benefits of being together.