The 4-H program relies on trained volunteers to facilitate youths’ acquisition of life skills in relevant subject matter areas (STEM, Healthy Living). A large part of the 4-H professionals’ objective is to undergird their volunteers in program delivery. The content of volunteers’ training emphasizes the 4 essential elements for youth development programming, namely: 1. Creating an atmosphere of belonging for diverse youth; 2. Promoting generosity through service to their families and communities; 3. Supporting youth mastery of globally applicable life skills and specific skills within subject matter areas of expertise; and 4. Facilitating youths’ sense of independence by self-selecting topics in projects they are intrinsically motivated to engage in. The focus of this volunteer self-report-based research is twofold: 1. to shed light on the relationship between volunteer training and promoting positive youth development via essential elements of 4-H programming; and 2. to assess circumstances that influence volunteers’ likelihood in use of the essential elements in their 4-H programs.

In 2018 4-H volunteers in Florida were asked their perceptions of the extent to which they facilitated each essential element, indicated by multi-item, multi-factor measures. Contextual predictors of use of essential elements, including breadth of volunteer training, with moderating variables such as tenure in 4-H, were examined in association with the essential elements. Results supported prior findings with associations between breadth of volunteer training and the essential elements of belonging and mastery. Volunteers’ tenure in the 4-H program moderated the relationship between breadth of training and the essential element of mastery, with stronger associations among less seasoned volunteers. Moreover, among volunteers reporting greater breadth of trainings in the past year, males reported greater levels of promoting independence and generosity than females. Our findings suggest mastery is a relevant essential element retained in training and applied in 4-H volunteers’ practice. Implications are discussed regarding training content and promotion of responsibilities for more seasoned volunteers, as well as considerations of possible effects of differences in gender role expectations influencing the practice of promoting certain essential elements.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.