The phenomenology of service: A study of the effect of service on male adolescent development

Joseph Richard Reilly, Fordham University


This study examined the value of service, both as a constitutive element in Catholic secondary education, and as it is experienced and understood in the lives of adolescent males. The participants' descriptions of experiences with service provided the foundations for any insights and conclusions. The research questions lent themselves to qualitative methodology. The researcher interviewed 7 recent graduates who participated in the Habitat for Humanity experience sponsored by the school in addition to the Director of Service Learning at the school. Each participant was interviewed on three occasions: first, focusing on the life history of the participant to establish a context for the experience of service; in the second interview, the participant reconstructed the concrete details of their experiences with service; and finally, to invite the participants to reflect on the meaning of their experiences. Extensive document analysis took place prior to, during, and after each of the interview protocols. Coupled with these two sources of data was in-depth participant observation. Through a process of triangulation, the interpretation of the data was confirmed. The research surfaced seven themes with regard to the experience of service in the life of male adolescents: (a) family influence and support of service, (b) feeling called to service, (c) service as an eye-opening experience, (d) service and identity formation, (e) service and growth into commitment, (f) service and the value of community, and (g) passion versus ambition or vocation versus occupation. Additionally, the participants' varied expressions for service were presented as well as the reflections of the Director of Service Learning for Social Justice. The findings of the study suggest that the experience of service during this period of adolescence helped to surface issues of identity in a positive and constructive manner, increased the participants' confidence in his own talents and abilities, fostered an openness to commitment and hopeful aspirations for the future, and encouraged the discernment of values for life as well as responsibility for one's self and to the world.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Religious education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Reilly, Joseph Richard, "The phenomenology of service: A study of the effect of service on male adolescent development" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3134449.