Broken Windows and Neighborhood Gardens: Observable Social Capital Associated With Juvenile Substance Use?

Curtis J. VanderWaal, Andrews University
Yvonne Terry-McElrath, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Lisa Powell, University of Illinois at Chicago
Duane C. McBride, Andrews University

Criminologists have long argued that the presence of active social networks and a strong sense of community within neighborhoods reduces undesirable behaviors such as crime (both violent and non-violent) and risky substance use. The concept of social capital has recently emerged as a way to understand both the negative and positive forces which diminish or enhance these community social networks. Various dimensions of social capital have been studied using questionnaires and interviews to explore the relationships between social disorganization--broken windows or abandoned neighborhood lots--anbd the presence of crime or other undesirable social behaviors. However, few studies have explored the visual presence of positive social capital at the community level. Researchers from the Bridging the Gap initiative will use correlation and multiple regression techniques to explore whether the presence of visual social capital is associated with juvenile substance use in 220 communities that participated in the 2001 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study. Social capital variable categories include community/recreational space, community social interaction, public events advertising, safety, and absence of informal social controls. Researchers will discuss the implications of these findings for substance use and crime prevention.

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Updated 05/20/2006