Social capital and adolescent health risk behavior in El Salvador

Andrew Everett Springer, The University of Texas School of Public Health


An emerging body of research suggests that the social capital available in one's social environment, as defined by supportive and caring interpersonal relationships, may provide a protective effect against a number of youth risk behaviors. In exploring the potential protective effect of social capital at school and at home on adolescent health and social risk behavior, a comprehensive youth risk behavior study was carried out in El Salvador during the summer of 1999 with a sample of 984 secondary school students attending 16 public rural and urban schools. The following dissertation, entitled Social Capital and Adolescent Health Risk Behavior in El Salvador, presents three papers centered on the topics of social capital and risk behavior. Paper #1. Dangers in the Adolescent River of Life: A Descriptive Study of Youth Risk Behavior among Urban and Rural presents prevalence estimates of four principal youth risk behavior domains—aggression, depression, substance use, and sexual behaviors among students primarily between the ages of 13 and 17 who attend public schools in El Salvador. The prevalence and distribution of risk behaviors is examined by gender, geographic school location, age, and subjective economic status. Paper #2. Social Capital and Adolescent Health Risk Behavior among Secondary School Students in El Salvador explores the relationship between social resources (social capital) within the school context and several youth risk behaviors. Results indicated that students who perceived higher social cohesion at school and higher parental social support were significantly less likely to report fighting, having been threatened or hurt with a weapon, suicidal ideation, and sexual intercourse than students with lower perceived social cohesion at school and parental social support after adjusting for several socio-demographic variables. Lastly, paper #3. School Health Environment and Social Capital : Moving beyond the individual to the broader social developmental context provides a theoretical and empirical basis for moving beyond the predominant individual-focus and physical health concerns of school health promotion to the larger social context of schools and social health of students. This paper explores the concept of social capital and relevant adolescent development theories in relation to the influence of social context on adolescent health and behavior.

Subject Area

Public health|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Springer, Andrew Everett, "Social capital and adolescent health risk behavior in El Salvador" (2000). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9981813.