Volunteering for your local sport association, school, church, political party, company or caretaking else is common in the Netherlands. Between 2012 and 2016, 50% of the population has participated in at least once in some form of volunteering within a year. 36% percent of these participants have performed voluntary work for less than one hour per week, 24% performed between 1 to 3 hours of voluntary work per week, and 30% performed 3 hours or more voluntary work per week.
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Also, percentages of volunteering are different with regard to education level. Volunteers with a more theoretical education level (62,3%) spend more time volunteering than people with a more practical education level (32,6%) (Schmeets & Arends, 2017). Moreover, there seem to be gender differences in voluntary work. Women have higher percentages of volunteering in schools (15% for women, 8% for men) and caretaking (12% for women, 5% for men), while men have higher percentages of volunteering in sports associations (11% for women, 20% for men) (Arends & Flöthe, 2016). These statistics show that people vary in their preference for volunteering. Investigating the different factors underlying volunteering could contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of volunteering.
Volunteering in its essence is closely related to the psychological topic of altruism. Altruism is described in the literature as the form of motivational behaviour that does more good to the recipient than to the performer of the behaviour (Pilivian & Charng, 1990). Many theories have been proposed to explain altruism in terms of behaviour, but were unable to empirically substantiate the theory. Examples of these theories are the empathy-specific punishment hypothesis (Batson et al., 1988), empathy-reward hypothesis (Meindl & Lerner, 1983), and the negative-state relief model (Cialdini et al., 1987). The empathy-specific punishment hypothesis bases the motivated behaviour on the guilt or shame someone experiences that is learned in the past. In this regard, empathy is considered a selfish way of coping with the negative feelings. The empathy-reward hypothesis sees this from the other perspective. Instead of being conditioned to feel shame and guilt, the empathy-reward hypothesis focuses on praise and honour as the core of the motivational behaviour. The last hypothesis, the negative-state relief model, proposes that the motivational behaviour is to relief ourselves from the sadness experienced. Empathy is seen as the origin of the negative experiences, which is why we help others. Interestingly, these three theories have an egoistic point of view, yet seem unable to explain altruistic behaviour. Reason for this is that the theories lack an altruistic part that drives the motivational behaviour.
Batson and Toi (1982) coined the empathy-altruism hypothesis. This hypothesis states that altruistic behaviour is exhibited as a result of empathy, while egoistic behaviour is exhibited as a result of personal distress.
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