Social capital and children's wellbeing

Practitioners and policy-makers increasingly recognise that children's lives are shaped by the interplay between family relationships, social context, the individual and the community. They use the concept of social capital to describe and explain how these factors are linked, and to predict their impact on children’s health, educational attainments and general wellbeing. The studies, analysis and tools listed below reflect current debates on the components of family and community social capital, and our ability to measure it. While most research shows that horizontal bonding, community co-operation and civic engagement can enhance participation, access to resources and uptake of services, some empirical studies point out that national policies and financial commitment are essential to ensuring everyone can benefit from them.

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Selected resources

Discussion and analysis

Social capital and children's wellbeing : a critical synthesis of the international social capital literature

October 2004

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This literature review looks at main international studies on social capital and children's and youth's wellbeing, presents a critical analysis of the concept and discusses its relevance as a reliable predictor of positive future outcomes for children and young people. It outlines both family social capital indicators - including family structure, quality of parent-child relations, adult's interest in the child, parent's monitoring of the child and extended family exchange and support - and community social capital indicators - which comprise social support networks, civic engagement in local institutions, trust and safety, degree of religiosity, quality of school and quality of neighbourhood. The article calls for further empirical scrutiny of social capital predictors, while accepting that the impact of social capital on children's future attainments is second only to poverty

Social capital and civil society


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A paper documenting the core concepts of social capital and its economic and political functions. It traces the origins of social capital and suggests how it can be cultivated. It explores core concepts, but uses academic and sometimes complex words to describe them

Social capital and poverty

November 1998

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This paper attempts to "map" the idea of social capital, which relates different types of evidence and theories originating from different disciplines. After an introduction, it attempts to define social capital from basic economic theory, answering the questions 'what is social about it?' and 'what makes it capital?'. Section 3 extends the theoretical analysis by answering the question 'how does it work?'. It thus disaggregates social capital according to the types of social interaction which form it, the way they form it, and how it raises incomes. Section 4 discusses "endoginising" social capital, and Section 5 distinguishes social capital generated by civil society and that supplied by government. It then turns to the measurement and empirical application of the analytic concepts, at the micro-level of household and firm studies (Section 6), and at the aggregate level of regressions on internationally comparable data (Section 7). The final three sections turn to policy. Section 8 discusses examples of when social capital can be damaging. Section 9 considers how policy should respond to the more usual case of when civil social capital is useful but under-provided. Section 10 focuses on the implications for poverty

Social capital and poverty reduction : which role for the civil society organizations and the State?


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This volume brings together four papers on the role of social capital in development. These are : "Social capital Formation: a poverty reducing strategy?" by Else Øyen; "Citizen participation and social capital formation: resource mobilisation for social development: the experience of Comunidade Solidária in Brazil" by Miguel Darcy de Oliveira; "Social capital in theory and practice: reducing poverty by building partnerships between states, markets and civil society" by Michael Woolcock; and "Social capital and the rural poor: what can civil actors and policies do?" by Sanjeev Prakash

Young people and social capital

BOECK, Thilo
June 2006

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This brief paper explores the concept of social capital and its bearing on young people's lives. In particular it distinguishes between a static social capital (strong/static networks, immediate reciprocity, restricted sense of belonging and outlook in life) and dynamic social capital (diverse networks, generalised reciprocity and diverse outlook). It suggests that young people should be encouraged to embrace an enhanced version of dynamic social capital, and should be offered opportunities to do so. An enhanced dynamic social capital would enable them to cope with risks rather that avoid them, and would give them access to more power and opportunities


Better policies, better outcomes : promoting the mainstreaming of social inclusion

February 2006

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This study explores the growing importance of poverty and social exclusion within the European Union policy framework and how policy development can be assessed in relation to the way governments mainstream social inclusion into public policies. In the context of drafting the National Action Plans against poverty and social exclusion (NAPs/inclusion) and the implementation of policy commitments to eradicating poverty and promoting social inclusion, the work has developed a proposed framework for the evaluation of how Member States give a poverty perspective to their policy objectives

Employment developments in childcare services for school-age children : summary

November 2006

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This is the summary of a study to examine developments in employment in childcare services for school-age children in the 25 EU Member States. The study aims to support the debate on the modernisation of care systems in Europe, to review existing information on childcare services, to pinpoint gaps in the level of service in the enlarged EU, and to identify measures at national, regional and local levels which are assisting the development of employment opportunities within this target group

Maternal social capital and child health in Vietnam

TUAN, Tran
et al

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In Vietnam there is growing concern about the potential social impact of rapid economic changes. The extent and type of social connectedness, or social capital, may be changing...The Young Lives project in Vietnam allows the examination of the relationship between maternal social capital and child well-being. With a sample of 1,953 mothers of one-year-olds and 954 mothers of eight-year-olds across five provinces, this study examines whether maternal social capital is associated with child health

Measuring the social capital of children


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After presenting some of the key issues in the measurement of social capital (the separation of cognitive and structural social capital, the exclusion of outcomes of social capital, the definitions of community) this paper then considers the limited literature on conceptualising social capital in relation to children

Social capital and education outcomes in urban and rural Peru

et al

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Although enrolment in primary schools in Peru is very high, more than half of primary school children are one or more grades below the norm for their age. Furthermore, evaluations have shown that, when tested, Peruvian school children score well below the norms expected for their age. Their scores are also below the average levels of countries with similar socio-economic circumstances...This study investigates whether social capital is associated with educational progress and achievement

Measuring social capital

Integrated questionnaire for the measurement of social capital

GROOTAERT, Christiaan
et al

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This paper introduces a tool, the Integrated Questionnaire for the Measurement of Social Capital, with a focus on developing countries. The tool aims to generate quantitative data on six dimensions of social capital as part of a larger household survey. These dimensions are: groups and networks, trust and solidarity, collective action and cooperation, information and communication, social cohesion and inclusion, empowerment and political action. The tool was tested in Albania and Nigeria and the lessons learned are presented

Measuring social capital : towards a theoretically informed measurement framework for researching social capacity in family and community life

STONE, Wendy
February 2001

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This paper is based on a study carried out in Australia to develop a measurement framework for social capital. It considers relations such as families, neighbours and friends, group and non-group relations, and work associations; and trust and relationship are examined. The study ends with principles for measuring social capital

Understanding and measuring social capital : a multi-disciplinary tool for practitioners

GROOTART, Christiaan

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This book provides a conceptual review of social capital and measurement tools in a form readily accessible to development practitioners. It discusses the value of quantitative and qualitative approaches to the analysis of social capital, illustrating the discussion with examples, and case studies from many countries. It also presents the Social Capital Assessment Tool, which combines quantitative and qualitative instruments to measure social capital at the level of household, community, and organisation, drawing on multidisciplinary, empirical experiences, an application which can provide project managers with valuable baseline, and monitoring information about social capital in its different dimensions. The Social Capital Assessment Tool can be downloaded from a CD-ROM which is included with this book


Social Capital Gateway : resources for the study of social capital


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This website contains useful resources for researchers, teachers, students, and practitioners interested in social interactions and social capital. Resources are organised by topics, including: social capital and the economy, social capital in developed countries, social capital in low-income countries, social capital and institutions, social capital and transition, social capital and well-being. Includes directories on specialised websites, digital libraries, and social scientists interested in social capital

Case studies

Community group participation : can it help young women to avoid HIV? An exploratory study of social capital and school education in rural Zimbabwe

et al
June 2004

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Evidence shows that young people remain at risk of contracting HIV despite high levels of knowledge about HIV/AIDS. This paper argues that membership of local community groups in rural Zimbabwe is associated with greater avoidance of HIV and safer sexual behaviour. Group membership facilitates access to health information, supports informed hehavioural changes and connects young people to powerful and resourced groupings or institutions. It also looks at factors determining greater participation in community groups and efficient use of community social capital. It finds that young women with secondary education are disproportionately more represented in local groups and more likely to avoid HIV, concluding that there may be a synergistic relationship between school education and social capital

From car park to children's park : a childcare centre in development

July 2003

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This working paper illustrates the "Situationsansatz" pedagogical framework, as implemented at Kita, a childcare centre in Berlin. The emphasis is on children's environments, children's participation and optimal learning. The key principles of the "Contextual Child Development Approach" include: recognising the learning potential of diverse cultural heritages and intercultural interaction, developing close relations with the social environment and adopting an open planning process, with the contribution of children, parents and other adults. Includes an appendix, which briefly outlines the guidelines for working with the Contextual Child Development Approach in childcare centres

Maternal social capital and child wellbeing in comparative perspective

et al

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This working paper looks at how social capital may help mothers to know, think, do and feel more or differently, and how this, as a result, could impact positively on children's welfare. Young Lives have been involved in a cross-country review and measurement of social capital manifestations and this paper draws on some of the findings, reviewing current debates, describing YL's methodology and providing a comparative analysis of social capital in relation to various aspects of child wellbeing, including nutritional status, health performance and educational attainments