Actual or potential neighborhood resources and access to them: testing hypotheses of social capital for the health of female caregivers

Richard M Carpiano
Social Science & Medicine 2008, 67 (4): 568-82
This study considers three commonly overlooked aspects of neighborhood social capital: actual or potential network resources, access to such resources, and their potentially negative implications, as they bear on the health of adult female caregivers of children. Drawing upon Bourdieu's social capital theory and urban and community sociology research, two sets of related hypotheses are formulated and tested. The first set examines specific resources that inhere within neighborhood social relations by testing hypotheses concerning four forms of social capital (social support, social leverage, informal social control, and neighborhood organization participation) and their respective associations with daily smoking and perceived health. The second set assesses the importance of one's access to the neighborhood networks that possess such resources by testing hypotheses regarding how residents' neighborhood attachment moderates the association between social capital forms and these health outcomes in positive and negative ways. Analyses of the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A.FANS) linked with tract level census data indicate that specific social capital forms were directly associated with positive and negative health outcomes. Neighborhood attachment significantly moderated relationships between several social capital forms and health, indicating that a female caregiver's degree of network integration matters in both health promoting and health damaging ways. In addition to illustrating the utility of a Bourdieusian perspective for formulating explicit, testable hypotheses regarding how social capital may matter for health, these findings suggest that future public health studies of neighborhood social capital need to consider (1) the actual or potential resources that inhere within relationships, and (2) the role of access to such resources for promoting or compromising health.

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