Social Capital as a Positive Social Determinant of Health: A Narrative Review

Acad Pediatr. May-Jun 2021;21(4):594-599. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2020.09.013. Epub 2020 Oct 2.

Abstract

Social determinants of health influence child health behavior, development, and outcomes. This paper frames social capital, or the benefits that a child receives from social relationships, as a positive social determinant of health that helps children exposed to adversity achieve healthy outcomes across the life course. Children are uniquely dependent on their relationships with surrounding adults for material and nonmaterial resources. We identify and define three relevant aspects of social capital: 1) social support, which is embedded in a 2) social network, which is a structure through which 3) social cohesion can be observed. Social support is direct assistance available through social relationships and can be received indirectly through a caregiver or directly by a child. A child's social network describes the people in a child's life and the relationships between them. Social cohesion represents the strength of a group to which a child belongs (eg, family, community). Pediatric primary care practices play an important role in fostering social relationships between families, the health care system, and the community. Further research is needed to develop definitional and measurement rigor for social capital, to evaluate interventions (eg, peer health educators) that may improve health outcomes through social capital, and to broaden our understanding of how social relationships influence health outcomes.

Keywords: resilience; social capital; social cohesion; social determinants of health; social networks; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Social Capital*
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Social Support