Neighborhood Disadvantage, Social Capital, Street Context and Youth Violence

This article integrates arguments from three perspectives on the relationship between communities and crime—constrained residential choices, social capital, and street context perspectives—to specify a conceptual model of community disadvantage and the violence of individual adolescents. Specifically, we propose that status characteristics (e.g., race, poverty, female headship) restrict the residential choices of families. Residence in extremely disadvantaged communities, in turn, increases the chances of violent behavior by youths by influencing the development and maintenance of community and family social capital, and by influencing the chances that youths are exposed to a criminogenic street context. We assess our conceptual model using community contextual and individual-level data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Our findings suggest that individual or family status characteristics influence violence largely because of the communities in which disadvantaged persons and families reside. Although we find that community social capital does not predict individual violence, both family social capital and measures of an alternative street milieu are strong predictors of individual violence. Moreover, our street context variables appear to be more important than the social capital variables in explaining how community disadvantage affects violence.

De Coster, S., Heimer, K., & Wittrock, S. Neighborhood Disadvantage, Social Capital, Street Context and Youth Violence . 47 4 723 - 753. 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2006.00064.x.