The social ecology of child health and well-being

Annu Rev Public Health. 2001;22:143-66. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.22.1.143.


The term social ecology refers to the nested arrangement of family, school, neighborhood, and community contexts in which children grow up. In this chapter, new directions in public health science as reflected in the theoretical and methodological implications of the concept are explored. The contributions of this ecologically oriented approach to child health practice, designed as it is from a health promotions perspective, are considered. A critique of the term social capital is also presented because of its growing popularity in matters of child health. The point is made that application of this vague term carries the serious risk of misspecifying social phenomena. Future trends in the promotion of child well-being are in a position to flourish given the confluence of advances in theory, methods, and analytical capacity. The capacity to benefit children is also enhanced as public health science aims to translate the principles of child rights into health practice and policy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Health Promotion* / methods
  • Health Promotion* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Research Design*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Environment*
  • United States