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Meaningful commitment: finding meaning in volunteer work

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This study tests the hypothesis that volunteer work is associated with various aspects of meaning making by employing a multi-dimensional model of meaning operationalized by the Sources of Meaning and Meaning in Life Questionnaire (SoMe). An empirical study comparing 168 volunteers with a representative sample of the general population (N = 603) shows that generativity and social commitment are more prominent among volunteers, as are – among others – self-knowledge and development. Volunteers also experience higher degrees of meaningfulness. Existential indifference is considerably less frequent among volunteers than in the general population. Moreover, characteristic sources of meaning differ between volunteers working in church, hospices, and secular contexts. Satisfaction with volunteering moderately correlates with the general experience of life as meaningful; meaningfulness is particularly low when less than two hours per week are committed to volunteering, and when the duration of volunteering is less than one year.
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Keywords: SoMe; existential indifference; meaning in life; prosocial behaviour; volunteering

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Psychology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria 2: Youth Educational Centre, Hagen-Berchum, Germany

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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