This study explores the patterns of and motivations for voluntary blood donation by men and women in Toronto, Canada. Examining social systems with differently structured opportunities for altruism illustrates both the influence of the sex-role differential on altruism, and also the impact of these social structures upon sex-role behaviour.

Data are drawn from a postal questionnaire completed by a random sample of about 1,000 males and 850 females who had voluntarily donated blood in Toronto, at least once between June 1974 and February 1978.

The study finds men and women donate about equally in a voluntary system, in contrast to lower female participation with market-based blood procurement. Further, the reasons to begin and cease donor activity are basically similar for each sex, though observed differences are quite compatible with traditional role assumption.

Implications are assessed for both altruistic behaviour and sex-role patterning.

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