Unraveling the role of community service in adolescent identity formation

Project: Research project

Project Details


Researchers have argued that community service play a significant role in facilitating adolescent identity formation (Youniss & Yates, 1997; Kroger, 2007), with identity formation being regarded as a major development issue confronting adolescents (Erikson, 1968). Much research has been conducted to report the positive impact of community service in adolescent identity formation (Hardy et al., 2010); what remains unknown, however, is which community service program factors provide concrete opportunities for adolescents to develop an increased understanding of their membership in society and how they interplay with each other. The proposed study seeks to fill this research gap. Within a number of theoretical models that describe and explain the process of identity formation (Schwartz, Lukckx & Vignoles, 2011), Marcia’s (1966) identity status model has inspired the field for almost five decades (Schwartz, et al., 2013). Given that the model provides a systematic description of how adolescent identity changes over time, Marcia’s identity status model is applied in the proposed study to capture a sample of Hong Kong secondary school students’ identity change. Marcia defines identity status in two dimensions, exploration and commitment. According to how far adolescents explore or commit in certain stances of values or social ideology, four identity statuses are defined, achievement, moratorium, foreclosure, and diffusion. The association between students’ identity status change and participants’ community service involvement will be examined firstly in the current study. In addition, the current project will use “Service-Learning Quality Indicators” (SLQI), which have been developed from and is paralleled with the eight K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice (National Youth Leadership Council, 2008), to examine the quality of community service programs. The K-12 standards consist of duration and intensity, meaningful service, link to curriculum, reflection, diversity, youth voice, partnerships, and progress monitoring. A mixed methods design will be employed to investigate how adolescent identity status changes within the context of community service. Quantitative methods will be used to test quality factors in community service programs that allow adolescents to understand their membership in society. The Modified EOMEIS in the form of pretest/posttest will be administered to assess participants’ identity status change within a one-year time-span. The Youth Inventory of Involvement (YII) and SLQI will be administered post-project to assess the participants’ community service involvement and their evaluation of service program quality respectively. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted to describe and explain how eight K-12 service-learning standards interplay to facilitate adolescent identity formation in the context of school-based community service programs. Forty eight students from six secondary schools will be selected through purposive sampling, with qualitative data collected mainly from individual interviews.

Funding Source: RGC - General Research Fund (GRF)
Effective start/end date01/01/1630/06/17


  • community service, identity formation, identity status, adolescence


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