Advertisement

Religious Socialization and Non-Religious Volunteering: A Dutch Panel Study

  • Paul VermeerEmail author
  • Peer Scheepers
Open Access
Original Paper

Abstract

Despite the fact that churches are still important sources of social capital in the Netherlands, the ongoing secularization of Dutch society has as yet not resulted in a drop of non-religious volunteering. In order to account for this apparent paradox, panel data are used to test the hypothesis that non-religious volunteering is in part an aftereffect of the religious socialization today’s volunteers enjoyed as youths. The following research question is addressed: To what extent does a religious socialization in Christian families during adolescence, independent of individual and collective religious characteristics, determine non-religious volunteering later in life? Results show that collective religious characteristics, i.e. being active in a religious community and religious affiliation, are the most important determinants in this respect. However, next to the effects of these collective aspects, also an independent effect of a religious socialization on non-religious volunteering is found. Especially a religious socialization which is not too strict was found to be influential on adult non-religious volunteering.

Keywords

Non-religious volunteering Religious socialization Network explanation Spillover effect 

Résumé

En dépit du fait que les églises sont encore des sources importantes de capital social aux Pays-Bas, la laïcisation croissante de la société hollandaise n’a pas encore à ce jour résulté en une baisse du bénévolat non-religieux. Afin de prendre en compte ce paradoxe apparent, des données recueillies au moyen d’un panel sont utilisées pour évaluer l’hypothèse que le bénévolat non-religieux résulte en partie de la socialisation religieuse dont les bénévoles d’aujourd’hui ont bénéficié dans leur jeunesse. La question suivante de recherche est étudiée : dans quelle mesure une socialisation religieuse des familles chrétiennes durant l’adolescence, indépendante des caractéristiques religieuses individuelles et collectives, détermine un bénévolat non-religieux plus tard dans la vie ? Les résultats indiquent que les caractéristiques religieuses collectives, à savoir être actif au sein d’une communauté religieuse ainsi qu’une affiliation religieuse, sont les déterminants les plus importants à cet égard. Cependant, on trouve également à côté des effets de ces aspects collectifs, un impact indépendant d’une socialisation religieuse sur le bénévolat non religieux. En particulier, il a été établi qu’une socialisation religieuse qui n’est pas trop stricte, exerce une influence sur le bénévolat adulte non-religieux.

Zusammenfassung

Trotz der Tatsache, dass in den Niederlanden die Kirchen noch immer als wichtige Quellen für soziales Kapital gelten, hat die anhaltende Säkularisierung der holländischen Gesellschaft bislang nicht zu einem Rückgang nicht religiöser ehrenamtlicher Tätigkeiten geführt. Zur Erklärung dieses offensichtlichen Paradoxes stützen wir uns auf Paneldaten, um die Hypothese zu prüfen, dass nicht religiöse ehrenamtliche Tätigkeiten zum Teil eine Folgeerscheinung der religiösen Sozialisation sind, die die heute ehrenamtlich Tätigen in ihrer Jugend erfahren haben. Es wird die folgende Forschungsfrage behandelt: Inwieweit bestimmt eine im Jugendalter erfahrene religiöse Sozialisation in christlichen Familien, unabhängig von individuellen und kollektiven religiösen Merkmalen, die Aufnahme einer nicht religiösen ehrenamtlichen Tätigkeit im späteren Leben? Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass kollektive religiöse Merkmale, d. h. das aktive Eingebundensein in eine religiöse Gemeinschaft und religiöse Zugehörigkeit, in dieser Hinsicht die wichtigsten bestimmenden Faktoren sind. Allerdings wird neben den Folgen dieser kollektiven Aspekte auch eine unabhängige Auswirkung einer religiösen Sozialisation auf nicht religiöse ehrenamtliche Tätigkeiten beobachtet. Insbesondere eine nicht allzu strenge religiöse Sozialisation erwies sich als einflussreich auf nicht religiöse ehrenamtliche Tätigkeiten im Erwachsenenalter.

Resumen

A pesar del hecho de que las iglesias siguen siendo fuentes importantes de capital social en los Países Bajos, la secularización en curso de la sociedad holandesa no ha dado lugar todavía a una caída del voluntariado no religioso. Con el fin de explicar esta aparente paradoja, se utilizan datos de un panel para probar la hipótesis de que el voluntariado no religioso es en parte un efecto secundario de la socialización religiosa de que la disfrutaron los voluntarios de la actualidad cuando eran jóvenes. Se aborda la siguiente pregunta en la investigación: ¿En qué medida una socialización religiosa en las familias cristianas durante la adolescencia, independientemente de las características religiosas individuales y colectivas, determina el voluntariado no religioso posteriormente en la vida? Los resultados muestran que las características religiosas colectivas, es decir, ser activo en una comunidad religiosa y tener afiliación religiosa, son los determinantes más importantes en este sentido. Sin embargo, al lado de los efectos de estos aspectos colectivos, también se encuentra el efecto independiente de una socialización religiosa en el voluntariado no religioso. Se encontró, especialmente, que una socialización religiosa que no es demasiado estricta tiene influencia en el voluntariado adulto no religioso.

摘要

在荷兰,尽管教会仍然是在社会资本的重要来源,荷兰社会日益发展的去宗教化趋势却没有造成非宗教志愿行为的下降。为了分析这一明显的矛盾,本文采用面板数据测试了这样一个假设,即“非宗教志愿行为在一定程度上是当今青年志愿者所追求的去宗教化趋势的后效应”。本文回答了以下几个问题:去宗教化在基督徒家庭中对青春期、个体独立、整体宗教特性以及决定今后的非宗教志愿行为的影响程度。结果表明,整体宗教特性(即积极参与宗教社区和宗教信仰活动)受到的影响最大。同时,我们还发现去宗教化对于非宗教志愿行为也有独立的影响。如果去宗教化并不严格,这种趋势会影响成人的非宗教志愿行为。

要約

教会がオランダの社会資本において未だに重要な源であるという事実にもかかわらず、オランダ社会で進行している脱宗教化は、非宗教的なボランティアの減少をもたらしているとはいえない。この見かけ上のパラドックスを説明するために、パネルデータは、非宗教的なボランティアが部分的に、今日のボランティアで享受した若者の宗教の社会主義化の余波であるという仮説をテストするのに使用されている。このため以下の調査質問に取り組む。青年期にクリスチャンの家族では宗教の社会主義化は、個々および集合的な宗教的な特性の如何にかかわらず、どの程度後の人生における非宗教的なボランティア活動を決定づけるかというものである。結果から、集合的な宗教特性、すなわち教団と宗教に活動的であることは、この点において最も重要な決定因であることがわかる。しかしながらこれらの集合的な局面の効果は別にして、非宗教的なボランティアによる宗教の社会主義化における単独効果が明らかになった。特にそれほど厳格でない宗教の社会主義化は、非宗教的な大人のボランティアに影響力を持つことがわかった。

ملخص

على الرغم من حقيقة ان الكنائس لا تزال تشكل مصادر هامة من الرأسمال الاجتماعي في هولندا ، علمانية المجتمع الهولندي الجارية حتى الآن لم تسفر عن إنخفاض التطوع الغير ديني. من أجل حساب لهذا التناقض الظاهر ، تستخدم لوحة البيانات لإختبار الفرضية القائلة بأن العمل التطوعي الغير ديني جزء منه بعد تأثير التنشئة الإجتماعية الدينية يتمتع به المتطوعين اليوم كشباب. تم تناول سؤال البحث التالي : إلى أي مدى التنشئة الإجتماعية الدينية في العائلات المسيحية خلال فترة المراهقة، بغض النظر عن الخصائص الدينية الفردية والجماعية، تحدد التطوع الغير ديني في وقت لاحق في الحياة؟ أظهرت النتائج أن الخصائص الدينية الجماعية، مثل أن تكون نشط في المجتمع الديني والإنتماء الديني، هي أهم العوامل المحددة في هذا الصدد. ومع ذلك ، بجانب آثار هذه الجوانب الجماعية ، أيضا تم العثورعلى تأثير مستقل عن التنشئةالإجتماعية الدينية في التطوع الغير ديني. خاصة التنشئة الإجتماعية الدينية التي ليست صارمة للغاية ، وجدت إنها تكون مؤثرة على التطوع الغير ديني للبالغين.

Introduction

Churches and religious organizations have long been recognized as important sources of social capital. The sense of duty to the poor is central to all major religions, which especially urges religious people, it is often claimed, to engage in social activities on behalf of others in need (cf. Batson et al. 1993, pp. 331–364 for a detailed account of this relationship). This supposed link between religion and voluntary action is also established empirically in countries like for instance the US (Jackson et al. 1995; Putnam 2000; Lam 2002), Canada (Berger 2006; Perks and Haan 2011) and various European countries (Reitsma 2007; Savelkoul et al. 2011). Also in the Netherlands this link is found. For instance, De Hart (1999) found that the majority of Dutch volunteers is affiliated to a Christian denomination even when religious voluntary work is left out of consideration. In addition, he also found that especially church attendance matters in this respect. People who attend church more often are more likely to be engaged in voluntary work even if this is non-religious voluntary work. A similar finding is reported by Ruiter and De Graaf (2006), who studied the relationship between religion and volunteering by analysing data from 53 countries. They too found that especially church attendance, more than mere church membership, determines volunteering. An effect of church attendance these authors explain in terms of network-theory; i.e. people who attend church are involved in local close-knit networks in which engagement in voluntary action has become a social norm difficult to ignore. In line with this network explanation are also findings of Jackson et al. (1995), Park and Smith (2000) and Becker and Dhingra (2001). Jackson et al. studied a sample of 800 Indiana residents and found that participation in church groups increases non-religious volunteering, but when controlled for church group participation church attendance has no significant effect on volunteering. Park and Smith studied a US sample of churchgoing Protestants and again found that the participation in church activities more than church attendance increases the likelihood of religious as well as non-religious volunteering. Similarly, Becker and Dhingra (2001, p. 326) concluded that “(…) much of the ‘church effect’ on volunteering operates through friendship networks. (…). Those who consider congregation members among their closest friends are much more likely to volunteer.” In sum, this network explanation stresses the importance of close social bonds and thus accounts for the influence of religion by referring to its unmistakable social character. Especially religion brings people together in local communities and congregations, which urges them to volunteer (Putnam 2000, p. 67).

Although this network explanation is plausible, there is an underlying difficulty especially if it is applied to the Netherlands or other West-European countries. For the past decades the Netherlands have been characterized by an ongoing process of religious disaffiliation (Becker and De Hart 2006; Bernts et al. 2007), but as yet this has not resulted in a significant drop in volunteering with still 43% of the Dutch population being engaged in unpaid work for a non-profit organization in 2010 (Schuyt et al. 2011; cf. also Van Ingen 2008 for trends in hours spent per week on volunteering). This makes one wonder if the network explanation still holds. Does religion only facilitate volunteering because it offers social networks or does it also facilitate volunteering in other ways? In view of this question, we focus on an aspect of religion not very often discussed in literature: religious socialization. Taking advantage of advanced panel data on religious socialization during adolescence in Christian families and adult volunteering later in life, we test the hypothesis that being raised in a religious way by one’s parents strengthens one’s propensity to volunteer later in life even if one has already lapsed as an adult. If this hypothesis holds, the network explanation is extended in an important respect. For it is shown, then, that orientations towards a religious community early in life continue to be influential well into adulthood and affect a person’s orientation towards civil society.

Theoretical Background and Research Question

Religious socialization concerns the conscious and deliberate attempt of parents to transmit their religious beliefs and commitment to their children. Something parents primarily do by establishing a religious climate in the family, which among other things may imply taking their children to church, attending church themselves, offering religious education to their children, conducting religious practices at home et cetera (Vermeer et al. 2011). Now, there are several reasons why religious socialization thus understood may be important in view of adult volunteering. To begin with, it is important for integrating children in a religious community as well as for the inculcation of religious values. Thus, already at an early age children learn to orient themselves towards a community beyond the family and may also internalize prosocial values (Park and Smith 2000). Moreover, since several studies established a link between church attendance and volunteering, as we already mentioned in the introduction, there is a good chance that religious parents, who raise their children in a religious way, are volunteers themselves and thus these parents may also serve as important models for prosocial behaviour. Hence, religious socialization could in part also be an initiation into volunteering (Wilson and Janoski 1995). But perhaps most important is age. Since religious socialization processes at least partly take place during the formative years of adolescents, they may have a lasting effect on their identity and their social orientations (Vollebergh et al. 2001; Perks and Haan 2011). Even if these adolescents lapse later in life, they may still have internalized a lasting orientation towards the broader community. In our opinion, therefore, it is consistent with these socialization theories and plausible to propose that religious socialization processes in the family are positively related to volunteering later in life.

However, in the Netherlands being socialized in a religious community is not a strong determinant for church attendance later in life (Vermeer et al. 2011). Most children disaffiliate despite the fact that they were raised in a religious way by their parents. But exactly this phenomenon could explain, at least for now, why a drop in church attendance not necessarily induces a decline in volunteering. Perhaps a substantial part of today’s volunteers was still raised in a religious way by their parents and could thus have developed a propensity to volunteer, which remained influential throughout their lives even if they already lapsed (cf. also Bekkers and Schuyt 2008, p. 93). If this explanation is correct, the stable figures in volunteering could in part be interpreted as an aftereffect of the religious socialization a lot of today’s volunteers presumably enjoyed as a child. But this would also be a temporary aftereffect, because those who lapsed will probably no longer socialize their own children in a religious community (Voas and Crockett 2005). So, the effect of a religious socialization we hint at here especially concerns a specific cohort; i.e. lapsed churchgoers who were socialized in a religious community by religious parents. Especially for this group, we assume that a religious socialization has an effect on volunteering. An effect which will be less strong for those who are still churchgoers, and who are thus involved in a contemporary socio-religious network, and which will be absent of course for those who have never been socialized religiously. Studying the effect of religious socialization on volunteering later in life thus offers an important extension of the network explanation, if it is shown that among lapsed churchgoers earlier orientations towards a religious community indeed remain influential throughout their lives.

But instead of looking for an extension of the network explanation, it is also possible to consider real alternatives. According to sociologists like Davie (2007), a large part of the European population still adheres to religious beliefs although most Europeans are no longer committed to a religious community. Hence, an alternative to the network explanation could be that nowadays especially individual aspects of religiosity affect volunteering. Several Dutch scholars have, therefore, tested the hypothesis that next to collective aspects of religiosity, like church membership and church attendance, also individual aspects, like religious convictions or religious experiences, are important motivators for volunteering. However, the results are ambivalent. Stronger effects for individual religiosity than for collective religiosity were only found by Reitsma (2007), who used an extensive sample of residents of 11 European countries to study the relative effect on non-religious and religious volunteering of several indicators of individual religiosity, like: private prayer, dogmatic conviction, religious particularism, religious experience and the perceived influence of religion on one’s daily life. Similarly, using a random sample of the Dutch population, Bekkers and Schuyt (2008) studied the effect of, what they called, ‘community’ (collective religiosity) and ‘conviction’ (individual religiosity) on volunteering, but contrary to the findings of Reitsma (2007) they again found that collective aspects of religiosity are most important in explaining religious volunteering. However, when it comes to non-religious volunteering they did also find some evidence of the effect of altruistic values mediated by church attendance. Different effects of collective and individual religiosity on volunteering for the Dutch population were again specifically studied by Van Tienen et al. (2011). Instead of distinguishing between religious and non-religious volunteering, they distinguished between formal volunteering, i.e. voluntary work for an association, and informal volunteering, i.e. providing practical help to others, looking after children et cetera. They again found that church attendance is the most crucial religious aspect for explaining formal volunteering. Only with regard to informal volunteering, they found a weak effect of ‘spirituality’ and no effect of collective religiosity.

The aforementioned Dutch studies thus reveal ambivalent results regarding the relative effects of individual and collective religiosity on volunteering. In this respect, the results of these studies in large part resemble the results of American studies by for instance Cnaan et al. (1993), Lam (2002) and Taniguchi and Thomas (2011). Although these latter studies specifically included several aspects of individual religiosity and indeed revealed some effects of these aspects, non-religious volunteering was again best explained by collective aspects such as being involved in a religious organization or attending church. All things considered, then, studying the effect of individual aspects of religiosity does not seem to be a fruitful alternative to the network explanation, which, in our opinion, again underscores the importance of studying the effect of religious socialization as a valuable extension of the network explanation.

As mentioned already, next to the effect of the contemporary involvement in a socio-religious network, we expect that religious socialization during adolescence also has a lasting effect on one’s propensity to volunteer. Thus, we actually look for an independent effect of religious socialization on volunteering. For only an independent effect shows that early religious socialization experiences still determine adult volunteering behaviour next to the possible effect of being involved in a socio-religious network or the possible effect of individual aspects of religiosity; the latter we also consider for reasons of comparison with previous studies. As a result, the following research question is addressed in this paper: To what extent does a religious socialization in Christian families during adolescence, independent of individual and collective religious characteristics, determine non-religious volunteering later in life? As previously mentioned, we will answer this research question taking advantage of a panel dataset containing information of the same respondents as youths, gathered in 1983, and as adults, gathered in 2007. This is already an important contribution to the existing body of research in which panel data are rarely used. In addition, also our explicit focus on religious socialization as well as our multidimensional operationalization of this concept are important contributions to the existing body of literature on the link between religion and volunteering.

Method

Respondents

This study partially replicates a study carried out by De Hart (1990) in 1983 into the religious and political activities of Dutch teenagers. De Hart carried out a random sample survey among 3,532 Dutch secondary school students who at that time were in the higher grades of pre-university (VWO) or pre-college (HAVO) programmes. De Hart collected a sample that was considered representative of the whole population of higher grade VWO and HAVO students in the Netherlands.1 Using the old address file from 1983, 834 of these students were traced in 2006. In the first half of 2007, a questionnaire was sent to these 834 former participants, enquiring after several dimensions of their upbringing as well as their current religious beliefs and practices including their engagement in voluntary action. By the end of July 2007, 474 completed questionnaires had been returned; a response rate of 56.8% relative to the 834 questionnaires we sent. Our subsample of De Hart’s original sample thus includes 474 respondents, with an average age of 39.7 years, who were interviewed both in 1983 and in 2007. It is important to note that only those former students were contacted who had, in 1983, agreed in writing to participate in future research.

Given the fact that ‘only’ 474 out of the initially 3,532 surveyed respondents were included in the second wave, the level of attrition of our study is high. Still, we need to bear in mind that our study covers an unusually long period of over 20 years and that attrition only causes problems if our subsample is not representative of De Hart’s original sample in some important way (cf. Perks and Haan 2011). It is interesting to enquire, therefore, whether the present subsample is still a random subsample of the original 1983 sample. Comparisons of gender, church attendance and religious affiliation have revealed that this is not the case. Compared to the overall sample from 1983, our subsample in 2007 contains significantly more women and also more churchgoers than one would expect to find on the basis of the 1983 sample. Only when it comes to religious affiliation, the actual numbers of Dutch Reformed, Catholics and Re-Reformed pretty well resemble the numbers expected on the basis of the 1983 sample. Thus, in the present subsample especially churchgoers are overrepresented. But since we are interested in the effect of the respondents’ religious background on volunteering, we do not think that this overrepresentation of churchgoers in an otherwise very secular subsample causes problems here.

Although De Hart’s original sample was never intended to be representative of all Dutch secondary school students of that time, it was only representative of those attending the higher levels of secondary education, it is nevertheless interesting to also look at the correspondence of our subsample with the Dutch population aged around forty.2 This gives us a better insight into the specific profile of our subsample. To this end, comparisons were made of such general characteristics as gender, income, marital status and education. We also, by comparing church attendance and religious affiliation, studied its correspondence with the general Dutch population in respect of involvement in institutional religion. Compared to the general Dutch population, then, in our subsample women are again overrepresented, both the lowest and the highest income categories are overrepresented, marriage rates are higher, divorce rates lower and the level of education much higher. In addition, it again turns out that our subsample contains more churchgoers and, in particular, more Dutch Reformed. Apart from these latter religious variables, which are important independent variables in our study, the other socio-demographic characteristics, i.e. gender, income, marital status and education, will be included in our analyses as controls.

Measures

Our respondents were questioned in 1983 (Wave 1) and in 2007 (Wave 2). In 1983, De Hart (1990) questioned them about their religious socialization in the family. More specifically, he tried to capture the religious climate of the families they were raised in by enquiring after: the importance of religion to the respondents’ father and mother, the importance of religious education in the family, the noticeable effect of religion on the daily lives of their father and mother, the respondents’ level of church attendance at the age of ten, the level of church attendance of their father and mother, the frequency of bible reading and the frequency of prayer in the family. In 2007, we assessed the respondents’ belief in God, their level of orthodoxy and we also enquired if they ever experienced a sense of transcendence or mystical union. Next to these individual aspects of religiosity, we also enquired after several collective aspects of religiosity such as: the respondents’ level of church attendance, their involvement in a religious community and their religious affiliation. Finally, the respondents’ involvement in non-religious volunteering was also assessed in 2007. The following measures were used for the dependent variable, the aspects of individual and collective religiosity, for religious socialization and for the control variables.

Dependent Variable (Wave 2)

First, a question enquiring after earlier engagements in voluntary work was posed to our respondents. This question offered a list of several non-religious activities respondents could choose from, like being active in health care, the environment, elderly, refugees et cetera. Immediately thereafter, non-religious volunteering was measured by the single question: “Are you currently involved in volunteering?” Respondents could answer “yes” or “no” to this question. Although there is no explicit mentioning of ‘non-religious’ in this question, it addresses non-religious volunteering, because the previous question concerning earlier engagements in voluntary work already focused the respondents on secular activities.

Independent Variables—Individual Religiosity (Wave 2)

Belief in God was measured by the question: “Do you believe in a personal God?” The scale ran from 1 “no” to 5 “absolutely”. The level of orthodoxy was measured with the help of an instrument from the European Values Studies (Ester et al. 1993; Halman 1991), which enquires into respondents’ belief in seven traditional Christian doctrines: life after death, the soul, the devil, hell, heaven, sin and the resurrection.3 Respondents could answer “yes”, “no” or “don’t know”. This third category was recoded as “no”, whereupon the times respondents answered “yes” were simply summed. In this way a scale of orthodoxy ranging from 0 to 7 was created, with a higher score indicating a higher level of orthodoxy. On this scale the corrected item total correlations range from .53 to .79 and Cronbach’s alpha is .87. As regards the respondents’ experiences of transcendence and mystical union, a set of sixteen items derived from Hood’s Mysticism Scale and from Cloninger’s temperament and character inventory, subscale ‘self-transcendence’ was used. An example of an item on the experience of mystical union from Hood (2001) is: “I have had an experience in which I lost all sense of time and space.” An example of an item relating to an experience of transcendence from Cloninger’s self-transcendence subscale is: “I often feel part of a spiritual force on which all life depends” (Duijsens et al. 2000). The scale ran from 1 “not at all” to 5 “yes”. Factor analysis revealed that two factors underlie these sixteen items: experience of mystical union and experience of transcendence (factor loadings ≥ .53; explained variance 55.7%; Cronbach’s alpha .90 and .91, respectively).

Independent Variables—Collective Religiosity (Wave 2)

Church attendance was assessed by asking: “How often do you go to church or attend religious services?” The scale ran from 1 “never” to 7 “regular: at least three times a month”. Respondents’ involvement in a religious community was measured by asking: “Are you active in church or a religious community other than attending religious services?” Respondents could answer “yes” or “no” to this question. With regard to their religious affiliation, respondents could choose between: 1 “Catholic”, 2 “Dutch Reformed”, 3 “Re-Reformed”, 4 “other Christian denomination” and 5 “no affiliation”.4

Independent Variables—Religious Socialization (Wave 1)

As mentioned above, information regarding the respondents’ religious socialization was gathered in the first wave in 1983. The importance of religion (religious saliency) to the respondents’ father and mother was measured with the help of the following question: “Is religion of importance in the life of your father/mother?” The scale ran from 1 “unimportant” to 5 “very important”. The importance of religious education in the family was assessed by asking: “Is religious education an important aspect of your upbringing in the family?” Again the scale ran from 1 “unimportant” to 5 “very important”. With regard to the noticeable effect of religion on the parents’ daily life, the question posed was: “Do you notice that your father’s/mother’s religious faith influences his/her daily life?” Respondents could answer “yes” or “no” to this question. The respondents’ church attendance at the age of ten was assessed by asking: “How often did you go to church or attend religious services when you were 10 years old?” And with regard to the church attendance of their father and mother, the question used was: “How often does your father/mother go to church or attend religious services?” The scales were similar to the scale for the respondents’ adult church attendance ranging from 1 “never” to 7 “regular: at least three times a month”. Bible reading in the family was measured by asking: “Does reading in the bible take place in your family?” The scale ran from 1 “never” to 5 “regular” And, finally, with regard to the practice op prayer, the question posed was: “Does prayer or saying grace take place in your family?” Here, the scale ran from 1 “never” to 5 “daily”.5

Control Variables (Wave 2)

The control variables included in our study not only refer to the specific socio-demographic profile of our subsample, but are also known to influence the likelihood of non-religious volunteering. Thus, we include gender, income, marital status and education in our analyses and also consider the influence of having children. Women may be more inclined to volunteer, just like people from higher income categories, people who are married or people who are well-educated. Similarly, having children also increases people’s integration in their social network, which in turn may increase their propensity to volunteer (Park and Smith 2000; Ruiter and De Graaf 2006; Van Tienen et al. 2011). These control variables were measured as follows. Income was assessed by the question: “What is your monthly gross salary?” The response scale ran from 1 “less than 2000 Euro” to 8 “more than 5000 Euro”. Respondents could state their marital status by choosing between: 1 “married”, 2 “not married and single”, 3 “living with a partner to whom one is not married” and 4 “divorced”. Education was assessed by asking the respondents to state the highest level of education they had completed. The response scale ran from 1 “junior general education” to 6 “university”. And, finally, respondents could state whether or not they have children by simply answering “yes” or “no”.

Percentages, range, means and standard deviations of these variables are presented in Table 2 in the Appendix.

Strategy for Analysis

Since our dependent variable is a binomial variable, we used logistic regression for estimating three regression models for the likelihood to engage in non-religious volunteering. The first model contains the individual and collective aspects of religiosity and the control variables, the second model the different aspects regarding religious socialization and the control variables and the third model contains all variables. This strategy enables us: to determine the effect of several aspects of individual and collective religiosity, often mentioned in the literature, on volunteering (Model 1); to determine the effect of religious socialization on volunteering (Model 2); and, finally, to test if a possible effect of religious socialization still holds if aspects of individual and collective religiosity are added to the equation (Model 3).

Results

Table 1 presents the results of the estimation of three regression models. In view of our research question, the third model is most important. This model clearly shows that there is indeed an independent, enduring effect of religious socialization on non-religious volunteering over and beyond the effect of individual and collective religiosity. Moreover, the inclusion of several aspects of religious socialization also results in a substantial increase of the explained variance from .17 to .25. The full model thus better explains non-religious volunteering than the model only including the individual and collective aspects of religiosity, i.e. Model 1, or the model only including the aspects of religious socialization, i.e. Model 2.
Table 1

Odds ratios for non-religious volunteering

Independent variables

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Individual religiosity

 Belief in God

.972

 

.886

 Orthodoxy

.856*

 

.841*

 Experience transcendence

1.060

 

1.049

 Experience mystical union

1.095

 

1.147

Collective religiosity

 Church attendance 2007

.926

 

.878

 Active rel. community 2007

4.728*

 

5.465**

 Religious affiliation (none = ref)

  Catholic

2.273*

 

3.062**

  Dutch Reformed

1.825

 

1.362

  Re-Reformed

2.156

 

1.405

  Other Christian

1.304

 

1.630

Religious socialization

 Religious sailancy father

 

.671*

.583*

 Religious sailancy mother

 

1.036

1.137

 Importance religious educ.

 

1.650*

1.741*

 Effect rel. daily life father

 

1.068

1.336

 Effect rel. daily life mother

 

.579

.407*

 Church attendance as 10 year old

 

1.055

1.018

 Church attendance father

 

1.135

1.146

 Church attendance mother

 

.911

.885

 Bible reading

 

1.046

1.123

 Prayer

 

1.170

1.129

Control variables

 Female

.884

.775

.812

 Education

1.065

1.029

1.021

 Income

.946

.925

.954

 Marital status (married = ref)

  Not married

.478

.448

.443

  Living together

.703

.768

.840

  Divorced

.169

.115

.108

 Having children

1.047

1.095

1.131

 Constant

.692

.380

.478

 X 2

40.496**

39.248**

62.105***

 Nagelkerke R 2

.17

.17

.25

 N

296

296

296

* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

As far as the effect of religious socialization is concerned, the full model shows that three aspects are related to non-religious volunteering. Being raised by a father for whom religion is important and by a mother whose daily life is influenced by religion appear to be negative determinants for non-religious voluntary action, whereas being raised in a family in which religious education was considered important, in contrast, increases the odds of being involved in voluntary action. Hence, raising children religiously may indeed strengthen their propensity to volunteer later in life. But such a religious upbringing must perhaps not be too ‘strict’, as parents who are overtly religious seem to decrease the odds of their children becoming non-religious volunteers.

Apart from these aspects of religious socialization, several aspects of individual and collective religiosity are also related to non-religious volunteering. Orthodoxy, as an instance of individual religiosity, is negatively related to non-religious volunteering. This is partly in line with the findings of Reitsma (2007), who found that religious particularism, i.e. the conviction that there is only one religious truth, is negatively related to non-religious volunteering. In contrast, instances of collective religiosity like being involved in a religious community and religious affiliation are positively related to non-religious volunteering. Being actively involved in a religious community appears to be the most important determinant in this respect, which is a clear illustration of the so-called ‘spillover effect’ (Ruiter and De Graaf 2006; Van Tienen et al. 2011). In addition, it also turns out that being involved in a religious community is more important than merely attending church, a finding similar to results reported by Jackson et al. (1995), Park and Smith (2000) and Becker and Dhingra (2001). Next to the involvement in a religious community also religious affiliation is of importance here. Compared to those who are not affiliated, especially Catholics are more likely to be engaged in non-religious voluntary action. This contradicts the findings of De Hart (1999), who found that the percentage of both religious and non-religious volunteers is highest among the Re-Reformed, as well as the findings of Scheepers and Janssen (2003), who did not find clear differences between denominations in this respect, but it is perfectly in line with recent findings of Bekkers and Schuyt (2008) who found that in the Netherlands especially Catholics are more involved in non-religious than religious volunteering.6

Overall, our results thus show that those who are already active in a religious community and who are Catholic rather than non-affiliated are most likely to be engaged in non-religious voluntary action. But, in addition, our results also show that the odds of being involved in non-religious volunteering further increase if one was raised in a family in which religious education was considered important, while the odds decrease if one was raised by parents who were overtly religious or if one is an orthodox believer. And these effects are independent of the possible influence of gender, education, income, marital status and having children, since we did not find any relationship between these control variables and the odds of becoming a non-religious volunteer.

Discussion

In the introduction, we referred to the following somewhat paradoxical situation: although there is a link between religion and volunteering, declining levels of church attendance in the Netherlands have as yet not resulted in declining levels of volunteering. In order to account for this situation, we tested the hypothesis that volunteering is perhaps an aftereffect of the religious socialization some of today’s volunteers enjoyed as a child. Consequently, we addressed the following research question: To what extent does a religious socialization in Christian families during adolescence, independent of individual and collective religious characteristics, determine non-religious volunteering later in life? A question we may now answer as follows: There is indeed a positive effect of religious socialization, i.e. of being raised by parents who consider the religious upbringing of their children of importance, on the likelihood of becoming involved in non-religious volunteering later in life. This is also an independent, enduring effect of religious socialization, because this effect persists even when aspects of individual and collective religiosity are added to the equation. As to conclude this article, we would like to discuss four issues.

To begin with, despite this positive effect of religious socialization on non-religious volunteering, our study still confirms the network explanation as aspects of collective religiosity remain the most important religious determinants for adult non-religious volunteering. Religious affiliation and being actively involved in a religious community are the most important determinants we found in this respect, which is in line with the aforementioned Dutch studies of De Hart (1999) and Ruiter and De Graaf (2006) as well as with the US studies of Jackson et al. (1995), Park and Smith (2000) and Becker and Dhingra (2001). Moreover, our results are also an illustration of the so-called spillover effect. That is to say, religious volunteering seems to promote non-religious volunteering. This finding shows that churches are still important sources of social capital, but which immediately raises the question about the future of non-religious voluntary work in the Netherlands. For, the ongoing process of secularization in the Netherlands will certainly affect the level of religious volunteering and, because religious volunteering has such a strong spillover effect, it will eventually also affect the level of non-religious volunteering, as Ruiter and De Graaf (2006, p. 207) quite rightly argue.

Nevertheless, as an extension of the network explanation, our study does render support for the assumption that a religious socialization during adolescence is positively related to volunteering later in life. It clearly shows that experiences with religion during adolescence are positively related to adult non-religious volunteering. Hence, religious socialization indeed seems to make a difference even after 23 years. This finding confirms the common notion in socialization theory, that adolescence is an important formative phase for the development of certain cultural orientations (Vollebergh et al. 2001). And, apparently, adolescence is also an important phase for the internalization of prosocial values. However, we must admit that some reservation is in place here. Recently, Bekkers (2007; cf. also Van Houwelingen et al. 2010) has shown, that also parental volunteering itself determines non-religious volunteering in the next generation. This is considered an effect of parental modelling, which even persists when some of the aspects of religious socialization included in our study are controlled for. Now, Bekkers did not use panel data, respondents retrospectively answered questions about their parents’ volunteering, nor did he use our multidimensional operationalization of religious socialization, but his findings nevertheless challenge our results. If there is indeed a modelling effect of parental volunteering on volunteering in the next generation, it is possible that the non-religious volunteering of our respondents as adults is to some extent the effect of the modelling behaviour of their parents. Even more so, if we bear in mind that religious parents are more likely to be volunteers themselves. Thus, respondents who were raised in a religious way by their parents, probably were also confronted with parents who modelled volunteering. A more robust test of a possible independent effect of religious socialization on adult non-religious volunteering would, therefore, require that also the former, and perhaps also the current, volunteering activities of the parents were taken into account. Unfortunately, we were not able to do this, since our dataset contains no information on the voluntary activities of the respondents’ parents. Although this does not change the fact that we did find an independent effect of religious socialization on volunteering later in life, we admit that considering the possible effect of parental modelling behaviour on volunteering in the next generation should be an important point of interest in future research.

The third issue concerns our multidimensional operationalization of religious socialization. Since, our results reveal that not all aspects of religious socialization are equally important in predicting non-religious volunteering in the next generation; this multidimensional operationalization enables us to distinguish between positive and negative determinants for non-religious volunteering. Thus, we found that being raised in an overt religious family climate in fact reduces the chance of becoming a non-religious volunteer, whereas this chance increases if religious education as such was considered important by one’s parents. Presumably, this is a matter of the level of religious integration. Being raised by parents for whom religion is very important in life may especially strengthen the integration in one’s own religious community and thus may have a negative impact on non-religious volunteering outside this religious community (Wilson and Janoski 1995). This explanation is supported by the fact that also orthodoxy is a negative determinant for non-religious volunteering. Analogous to findings reported by Reitsma (2007) and Van Tienen et al. (2011), our study thus also suggests that a strong commitment towards a religious community actually reduces the odds of becoming a non-religious volunteer. Consequently, it seems that only a specific instance of religious socialization is a positive determinant for adult non-religious volunteering; viz. a religious socialization which is not too strict. Of course, we are ignorant of the exact form and content of the religious socialization our respondents actually enjoyed. But our findings do suggest that being raised in a family in which religious education was considered important is only a favourable condition for non-religious volunteering later in life if one’s parents were not too religious. Apparently, a more strict religious family climate is not a very favourable condition for the production of, what Putnam (2000) called, ‘bridging’ social capital.

The fourth and final issue we would like to discuss, concerns the denominational differences we found. In our subsample, only Catholics differ significantly from the non-affiliates in that they are more involved in non-religious volunteering. Of course, we have to be wary of emphasising this finding too much. Our subsample is rather small and not representative for the Dutch population, so these denominational differences could also be the result of a random variability in our subsample. Nevertheless, the finding that the spillover effect is stronger for Catholics than for members of other denominations is supported by national (Bekkers and Schuyt 2008) as well as international, comparative studies (Ruiter and De Graaf 2006). Furthermore, it is also an interesting finding in view of the issue we discussed above. Elsewhere it was shown (Vermeer et al. 2011) that the religious socialization of children was significantly less central in the families in which our Catholic respondents were raised than in the families of our Dutch Reformed and Re-Reformed respondents. This again supports the above explanation, that the odds of religious people becoming involved in non-religious volunteering increases to the extent that they are oriented less to their own religious community. Hence, this Catholic spillover effect could in part be due to the fact, that the integration of Catholics within there own religious community is weaker as a result of a more lenient religious upbringing.

In conclusion, our study again confirms that religion is important for non-religious volunteering, because it offers a supportive, social network. But it also shows that having been socialized in a religious tradition as an adolescent is also an independent, positive determinant for adult non-religious volunteering. Religious socialization experiences thus proof to be very powerful in this respect. Furthermore, given the fact that especially a less explicit religious and more lenient religious socialization is a positive determinant for adult non-religious volunteering, it might very well be the case that the volunteers who have been socialized in a religious tradition as an adolescent are more motivated by general prosocial values than by explicit religious values. If this indeed holds true, our study confirms the expectation of Bekkers and Schuyt (2008, p. 93), that “(…) ultimately, secularization may change the motives for philantropy in a value-based direction.”

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    These students were approached via school. In behalf of his research, De Hart approached 148 secondary schools throughout the Netherlands of which 106 decided to cooperate. Thus, the response rate of De Hart’s original sample in 1983 is 72% (De Hart 1990, pp. 275–285).

  2. 2.

    We used the data set of the study on Social and Cultural Trends in the Netherlands (SOCON) in 2000 and only compared respondents in the same age group as those in the subsample (Eisinga et al. 2000). With regard to the SOCON dataset this means that only respondents born between 1957 and 1962 (N = 162) were selected.

  3. 3.

    The original EVS instrument also contains items on God and on reincarnation. The item on God was omitted, because we assessed belief in God in a separate question. The item on reincarnation was omitted, because this item showed a low correlation, in some cases negative, with the other items. Besides, on conceptual grounds one may question whether belief in reincarnation is really a traditional Christian belief (Halman 1991, p. 65).

  4. 4.

    The Dutch religious landscape is more diverse than these categories suggest. Traditionally, the Catholic Church, the Dutch Reformed Church and the Re-Reformed Church constitute the largest Christian denominations in the Netherlands. According to figures of The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Becker and De Hart 2006), this is still the case today with 17% of the Dutch population being Catholic, 6% being Dutch Reformed and 4% being Re-Reformed. Apart from this, 8% of the Dutch belong to one of the smaller Christian denominations, while it is estimated that 5% is Muslim. Of course, it would be very interesting to also have Muslims in our sample. The absence of Muslims is due to the fact, that our sample is a subsample of a sample of 1983 which contained not a single Muslim. Dutch society became more multicultural and multireligious as from the beginning of the eighties. Thus, at the time the original sample of secondary school students was taken there were hardly any Muslims attending Dutch secondary schools, let alone attending the higher levels of secondary education.

  5. 5.

    We are aware of the fact that there is danger of multicollinearity in the subsequent analyses if these aspects of individual religiosity, collective religiosity and religious socialization are highly correlated to one another. Inspection of the correlation coefficients between the continuous variables revealed that none of these correlations is above the critical value of .90. The highest correlation is between the church attendance of the father and the mother (r = .89, p < .001). Actual collinearity statistics are presented in Table 3 in the Appendix. These statistics show that subsequent regression analyses could be performed including all variables. None of the tolerance values is less than .10 and none of the VIF values is greater than 10.

  6. 6.

    The finding that compared to the non-affiliates especially Catholics are more involved in non-religious volunteering could be the result of the overrepresentation of Catholics and the relatively small number of Dutch Reformed and Re-Reformed in our sample. In order to check up on this, we combined the Dutch Reformed and the Re-Reformed into the single category ‘Protestant’ and ran the same regression analyses. This did not change our results. Also with the number of Protestants approximating the number of Catholics, only the Catholics are significantly more involved in non-religious volunteering than the non-affiliates.

Notes

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

References

  1. Batson, C. D., Schoenrade, P., & Ventis, W. L. (1993). Religion and the individual. A social-psychological perspective. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Becker, J., & De Hart, J. (2006). Godsdienstige veranderingen in Nederland. Verschuivingen in de binding met de kerken en de christelijke traditie. Den Haag: SCP.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, P. E., & Dhingra, P. (2001). Religious involvement and volunteering: Implications for civil society. Sociology of Religion, 62(3), 315–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bekkers, R. (2007). Intergenerational transmission of volunteering. Acta Sociologica, 2, 99–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bekkers, R., & Schuyt, T. (2008). And who is your neighbor? Explaining denominational differences in charitable giving and volunteering in the Netherlands. Review of Religious Research, 50(1), 74–96.Google Scholar
  6. Berger, I. E. (2006). The influence of religion on philanthropy in Canada. Voluntas, 17, 115–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernts, T., Dekker, G., & De Hart, J. (2007). God in Nederland 1996–2006. Kampen: Ten Have.Google Scholar
  8. Cnaan, R. A., Kasternakis, A., & Wineburg, R. J. (1993). Religious people, religious congregations, and voluntarism in human services: Is there a link? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 22(1), 33–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davie, G. (2007). The sociology of religion. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. De Hart, J. (1990). Levensbeschouwelijke en politieke praktijken van Nederlandse middelbare scholieren. Kampen: Kok.Google Scholar
  11. De Hart, J. (1999). Godsdienst, maatschappelijke participatie en sociaal kapitaal. In P. Dekker (Ed.), Vrijwilligerswerk vergeleken. Nederland in internationaal en historisch perspectief. Den Haag: SCP.Google Scholar
  12. Duijsens, I. J., Spinhoven, P., Goekoop, J. G., Spermon, T., & Eurelings-Bontekoe, E. (2000). The Dutch temperament and character inventory (TCI): Dimensional structure, reliability and validity in a normal and psychiatric outpatient sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 487–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eisinga, R. N., Coenders, M. T. A, Felling, A. J. A., Te Grotenhuis, M., Oomens, S. & Scheepers, P. L. H. (2000). Maatschappijwetenschappen, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, sociaal-culturele ontwikkelingen in Nederland, SOCON 2000 [computer file], Steinmetz Archives, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  14. Ester, P., Halman, L., & De Moor, R. (Eds.). (1993). The individualizing society. Value change in Europe and North America. Tilburg: Tilburg University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Halman, L. (1991). Waarden in de Westerse Wereld. Een internationale exploratie van de waarden in de westerse samenleving. Tilburg: Tilburg University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hood, R. W. (2001). Dimensions of mystical experiences. Empirical studies and psychological links. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  17. Jackson, E. F., Bachmeier, M. D., Wood, J. R., & Craft, E. A. (1995). Volunteering and charitable giving: Do religious and associational ties promote helping behaviour? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 24(1), 59–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lam, P.-Y. (2002). As the flocks gather: How religion affects voluntary association participation. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(3), 405–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Park, J. Z., & Smith, C. (2000). “To whom much has been given…”: Religious capital and community voluntarism among churchgoing protestants. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 39(3), 272–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Perks, Th., & Haan, M. (2011). Youth religious involvement and adult community participation: Do levels of youth religious involvement matter? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 40(1), 107–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  22. Reitsma, J. (2007). Religiosity and solidarity. Dimensions and relationships disentangled and tested. PhD thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen.Google Scholar
  23. Ruiter, S. & De Graaf, N. D. (2006). National context, religiosity, and volunteering: Results from 53 countries. American Sociological Review, 71, 191–210.Google Scholar
  24. Savelkoul, M., Gesthuizen, M., & Scheepers, P. (2011). Explaining relationships between ethnic diversity and informal social capital across European countries and regions: Test of constrict, conflict and contact theory. Social Science Research, 40, 1091–1107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Scheepers, P., & Janssen, J. (2003). Informal aspects of social capital: Developments in the Netherlands 1970–1998. The Netherlands’ Journal of the Social Sciences, 39(2), 87–106.Google Scholar
  26. Schuyt, Th., Gouwenberg, B., & Bekkers, R. (Eds.). (2011). Giving in the Netherlands: Donations, bequests, sponsorship and volunteering. Amsterdam: Reed Business.Google Scholar
  27. Taniguchi, H., & Thomas, L. D. (2011). The influences of religious attitudes on volunteering. Voluntas, 22(3), 335–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Van Houwelingen, P., De Hart, J. & Den Ridder, J. (2010). Leren participeren: de civil society van ouder op kind. In: A. van den Broek, H. M. Bronneman-Helmers & V. Veldheer (Eds.), Wisseling van de wacht: Generaties in Nederland. Sociaal en cultureel rapport 2010. Den Haag: SCP.Google Scholar
  29. Van Ingen, E. (2008). Social participation revisited: Disentangling and explaining period, life-cycle and cohort effects. Acta Sociologica, 51(2), 103–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Van Tienen, M., Scheepers, P., Reitsma, J., & Schilderman, H. (2011). The role of religiosity for formal and informal volunteering in the Netherlands. Voluntas, 22(3), 365–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Vermeer, P., Janssen, J., & De Hart, J. (2011). Religious socialization and church attendance in the Netherlands between 1983 and 2007: A panel study. Social Compass, 58(3), 373–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Voas, D., & Crockett, A. (2005). Religion in Britain: Neither believing nor belonging. Sociology, 39(1), 11–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Vollebergh, W. A. M., Iedema, J., & Raaijmakers, Q. A. W. (2001). Intergenerational transmission and the formation of cultural orientations in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(4), 1185–1198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wilson, J., & Janoski, Th. (1995). The contribution of religion to volunteer work. Sociology of Religion, 56(2), 137–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Open AccessThis is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious StudiesRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Methodology, Faculty of Social SciencesRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations