Research Platform
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Relationship Between Participation and Adolescent Social Capital
Author Affiliations
  • AmeriCorps
Article Information
School-Based Practice / Prevention and Intervention
Research Platform   |   August 01, 2016
Relationship Between Participation and Adolescent Social Capital
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515238.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515238.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

This quantitative research study explored the relationship between adolescent participation in out-of-school activities, youth social capital, and parent social capital. Results support the importance of youth participation in community-based activities and the importance of parent social capital.

Primary Author and Speaker: Emily Reddy

Contributing Author: Lou Ann Griswold

The purpose of this research study was to explore the relationship among adolescent participation, their social capital, and their parent’s social capital. There were four research questions. They were “Do youths who participate in a greater number of activities have greater social capital than youths who participate in few to no activities?” “Do youths who participate in an intense, time-consuming programs have greater social capital when compared with those who participate in less intense activities?” “How does the location of activities youths participate in influence youths’ social capital?” and “Is there a relationship between parents’ social capital and the social capital of their children?”
No studies have examined the relationship between social capital and participation for children. Although many researchers have reported that social capital contributes to children’s health and well-being, the number of activities or intensity of participation in activities needed to build social capital has not been explored. Nor has anyone explored a relationship between parents and children’s social capital. This research project explored the relationship between participation in various activities outside of school and the social capital as perceived by adolescents.
This is a quasi-experimental, quantitative research study.
Adolescent-age students were recruited from five public middle schools, one private high school, two after-school programs, and two special interest activity programs (i.e., 4H and dance), for a total of 82 participants. Sites for data collection were located in multiple New England states, from urban, suburban, and rural areas. School principals and program directors from each school and after-school program requested students’ participation. Interested youths were given a packet with the materials and were asked to take the packet home, in order to have the parent give consent and complete their portion of the assessment, the parent social capital scale. The institutional review board of a major university approved this study.
Measurement tools include the Children’s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment (CAPE) to measure the youths’ participation, a social capital scale for adolescents developed for this study and based on the Social Capital Scale for adults, and the Social Capital Scale to measure parents’ social capital. The CAPE measures participation in a number of ways, looking at the child’s activities, where they do them and how often, who they do them with, and how much enjoyment they find in their activities. The social capital scales examine value of life, proactivity in the social context, trust, neighborhood connections, family and friend connections, tolerance of diversity, participation, and work connections.
The data from each participant and their parents were entered into a statistical analysis program. Each question was analyzed using either a one-tailed t test or a correlation test.
Results found that there was a significant difference in social capital scores when comparing adolescents involved in a higher overall number of activities with those who were involved in fewer activities. There was not a significant difference in social capital when comparing youths involved in more formal, structured activities, such as team sports. However, those youths participating in formal activities taking place in the community had higher social capital than those participating in other locations, such as at school or in their own neighborhood. Finally, strong correlations were found between parent and youth social capital scores.
This study supports the importance of youths’ participation within their community in structured, formal activities. Although the intensity of an activity does not have an impact on social capital, the location of activities does. This study also suggests that it is important to support parents’ participation within their community, because a parent’s social capital influences their children’s.
These findings have large implications for the field of occupational therapy. Therapists who work with youths need to support development of social capital through meaningful participation within a community-based setting. This research suggests that occupational therapists should be addressing not only opportunities for youth activities, but parent factors as well.