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By on October 10, 2012

Research on gender differences in prosocial behaviors

A preventionist might be quick to pass off Gender Differences in the Correlates of Volunteering and Charitable Giving to a development director or volunteer coordinator, but that would be a mistake.  The article explores differences in prosocial behavior based on gender identity.  And what are we as preventionists working towards if not the promotion of prosocial behavior?

In the article, author Christopher Einolf theorizes that while women are more motivated to help than men, men’s greater social and human capital cancels this out, leading to little difference in men and women’s prosocial behaviors.  After examining the data, however, he concludes that overall, women are more prosocially motivated and men have only a small advantage in resources and social capital when it comes to volunteering and charitable giving.  Because men are not as proscially motivated as women, therefore, they may need more “hooks” to drawn them in for volunteering and charitable giving.

In reading this article, I thought of efforts to engage men in the prevention of sexual and domestic violence.  When local sexual and domestic violence programs, or other community-based organizations, work to engage men in their communities in the prevention of sexual and domestic violence, they are essentially asking for men’s volunteer time.  If they approach recruitment as they have for the countless women who have volunteered for the movement over the decades, they may be unsuccessful.  If, as this article posits, men are not as intrinsically motivated to volunteer for the cause as women are, they will have to do some very strategic thinking and planning to approach and engage men differently.

Here is the full citation and abstract:

Einolf, C.J. (2001). Gender Differences in the Correlates of Volunteering and Charitable Giving. Nonprofit and Volunteering Quarterly, 40, 1092-1114.

Click here to see the article on the journal’s website.


Psychological research has found that women score higher on most measures of the traits, motivations, and values that predict helping others, and women are more likely to help family and friends. However, sex differences in the institutional helping behaviors of volunteering and charitable giving are small. This article seeks to explain this apparent contradiction with the hypotheses that men have more resources and more social capital than women, which compensates for their lower level of motivation. The article tests these hypotheses using data from the 1995 Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) survey. The data show partial support for these hypotheses, as men score higher on measures of income, education, trust, and secular social networks. However, women have broader social networks through religious participation.

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