“It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know”? Social Capital in Transition(s) to ‘Early Adulthood' – a Longitudinal Study

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Barbara BARBOSA NEVES, The University of Melbourne, Australia
Social capital captures the benefits of our relationships. Although a large body of research has examined social capital among adults, relatively little attention has been paid to social capital among young adults in a longitudinal perspective. Social capital is a useful social construct to study transition(s) to ‘adulthood’, because it predicts educational achievement, employment, status attainment, well-being, and social mobility. In fact, the sociological literature suggests that those with higher levels of social capital have greater social and economic opportunities. Following a Bourdieusian approach, we define social capital as the resources that are potentially available in our social ties. These resources can be mobilized for instrumental (e.g., help finding a job) or expressive (e.g., emotional support) purposes and are captured by two dimensions of social capital: bonding and bridging. Bonding corresponds to the resources potentially available in strong ties, that is, family members and close friends, whereas bridging relates mainly to resources available in weak ties, such as acquaintances. Bonding social capital is usually associated with expressive resources, while bridging social capital with instrumental resources.

 So, we asked: does social capital change in transition to early adulthood? And how do young people actively generate, negotiate, and use their social capital? To address these questions, we use data from the EPITeen cohort study of young people in Portugal to examine the social capital of individuals surveyed at ages 17, 21, and 24 (n=1650). In a mixed-methods approach, we also rely on 70 semi-structured interviews. The preliminary findings show that respondents report receiving more emotional than financial support from their networks, but that both emotional and financial support statistically increase over time. Likewise, bonding and bridging also change positively in transition to adulthood. We contextualize these results with our qualitative data and discuss its implications for family and youth studies.