Can Social Capital Protect Adolescents from Delinquent Behavior, Antisocial Attitudes, and Mental Health Problems?
Social capital theory suggests that the norms, obligations, and information adolescents receive from their social relationships act as a form of capital that can be traded in social situations. The implications of this theory are clear when considering growth in positive outcomes: more social capital should provide greater growth. However, the implications are less clear when considering potential protective effects against negative outcomes. We conduct a systematic review of the literature on social capital to examine the evidence for these protective effects. We discuss what social capital is and how it has been applied to youth previously before moving to a review of the relevant literature linking social capital and a number of negative outcomes. We find evidence that social capital does generally protect youth from negative outcomes; however, the evidence for some outcomes, such as mental health, are mixed. We review the implications of our findings and suggest avenues for future research.