Helping or Hovering? Examining Social Loafing and the Free-Rider Effect in Youth’s Transition Readiness

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Especially important in the transition process is the role of the providers and parents shifting from that of a manager of health to more of a coach. In group work, as in healthcare management, there is the opportunity for social loafing to occur, which could impede one’s competence in performing the desired task. Social loafing is the reduction in motivation and effort when individuals work collectively compared with when they work individually. Specific to social loafing is the free rider effect —when a person lacks putting forth effort because they believe someone else will pick up the slack which has been demonstrated in parent-child and student-teacher relationships.


In this study we examined the prevalence of social loafing as defined by whether youth report that they know how to perform specific transition readiness skills but report that others do the tasks for them (as opposed to doing it themselves).


We surveyed 161 youth from two different schools in South Central Appalachia about their transition readiness using anchors from the TRAQ with revised response categories. The response categories assessed 1) whether they know how to do the specific task or not and 2) whether youth perform the task themselves or if someone else does the task for them.


We were specifically interested in those who responded “No, someone else does it but I know how”. Of the 21 items on the TRAQ, the rate of endorsement of the “social loafing” response varied between 11% and 53%. For 14 of the 21 items, the rate of endorsement of the “social loafing” response was greater than 30%. Table 1 displays the rate of endorsement of the social loafing response for each TRAQ item.


Our results demonstrate that although many youth “know” how to perform various transition related tasks, very frequently they allow someone else to perform the task for them. In order for transition to adulthood to be successful, youth should be challenged to accept responsibility for performing task with the support of adults—called scaffolding. This will enhance the youth’s competence and autonomy. Similarly, in healthcare settings, clinicians can implement a scaffolding approach to reduce social loafing and promote more autonomy and gain competence in managing their health.


San Francisco, CA

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