Adolescent Social Capital: Contextual and Peer Effects on Behavioral Investment Strategies

Thomas Gannon-Rowley, University of Chicago

In research on adolescent development, academicians increasingly recognize the importance of studying effects of neighborhood and school contexts, parenting styles, peer groups, and the alleged benefits of social capital. However, few studies analyze adolescent outcomes using an explicit conceptualization of adolescent decision-making, adolescent-level capital, or adolescent-driven strategies. Among older adolescents in particular, treating the adolescent as ego is a necessary step in understanding the effects of contexts, the influence of peers, and the impact of capital on adolescent outcomes. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and multi-level modeling, I explore a multi-contextual approach to adolescent behavior by focusing on the concept of adolescent investment. I test a theoretical framework incorporating interrelationships among adolescent investment strategies in family, neighborhood, and school environments on adolescent behaviors (i.e. prosocial and problem behaviors). I hypothesize that investment strategies are shaped by: existing levels of capital; strategies modeled by influentials (e.g. parents, peers, neighbors); and, adolescents' perceptions, aspirations, and experiences vis--vis investment environments. Preliminary findings suggest that higher levels of attachment within each context are the strongest predictors of student investment into prosocial behaviors. The effects of adolescent network structural characteristics are equivocal.

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Updated 05/20/2006