The effects of volunteer service on Chinese college students’ social responsibility


  • Xun Liu College of Education, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA
  • Hailing Wei School of English& Education, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China



China, Social responsibility, Volunteer service, College student development, volunteer Paper type Research paper


Purpose - Growing involvement by Chinese college students in volunteer service has been greeted as a sign of the rising social responsibility among the young. While commitment to volunteer service is growing, there is limited evidence of its impact on participants. There are even some misinterpretations or controversy on the effect of volunteer service. The purpose of this paper is to answer the question: can volunteer service experience of limited intensity and duration have an impact on the development of Chinese college students’ social responsibility?Design/methodology/approach - College student volunteers, who served for approximately one month, were administered a pre- and post-test assessment using multi-item scales to determine if a student’s social responsibility would increase as a result of their volunteer service. Some interviews were done to collect information about the changes of volunteers. The final sample included 130 students. 107 students participated in voluntary teaching in rural areas in China and 27 students participated in the Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (AIESEC) international volunteer service organization. The Scale of Social Responsibility Development (SSRD) was chosen as the instrument for this study. Findings - Based on combined survey and interview data, the results show that students’ social responsibility increased significantly after volunteer service regardless of the service type. The length and the service experience have significant impact on the development of college students’ social responsibility. No significant effects were found in gender or parental education level.Originality/value - Compared with Western college students, who possess a long volunteer service tradition, Chinese college students have a relatively short history in terms of volunteer service. Many Chinese college students will not start participating in volunteer service until college. Chinese students have distinctive characteristics: comparatively mature cognitive ability and value system and limited volunteer service experience. This study can help to explain and examine the unique effects of volunteer service participation on the development of Chinese college students’ social responsibility.


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