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This study addresses the gap in the research for sound multidimensional assessment of social capital and its relationship with risk-taking behaviour among youths living in disadvantaged communities. Social capital and adolescent risk-taking outcomes were studied cross-sectionally in 1371 secondary students living in two disadvantaged communities within Australia. First, a multidimensional measure of social capital was developed and tested using confirmatory factor analysis. Then, the associations between social capital and a range of youth risk-taking behaviours were examined using structural equation modelling across five-year groups (Grades 7–12). With a few exceptions, higher levels of social capital and belongingness within the school and community were generally associated with decreases in smoking, alcohol and drug consumption, and physical violence. Some outcomes were more strongly associated with family and peer social capital, while others associated more with neighbour and community social capital, indicating that attempts to build social capital need to be targeted across the whole community. This study supports the notion that social capital can be measured empirically and is beneficial in alleviating many of the detrimental health outcomes commonly associated with risk-taking behaviours during adolescence.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access