Social capital and social trust
As my research is looking at parental engagement with a campaign promoting travel to school, I thought it would be a good idea to look at all the influences on parenting and children’s mobility. One area that I came across was social capital. Social capital is the value that people place in their local community, involving feelings of being safe in your local area, and trusting in other community members. Another definition is ‘the social networks and interactions that inspire trust and reciprocity among citizens’ (Stahl et al, 2001). A large amount of social capital research has been undertaken by academics, many of whom advise that social capital has a big part to play in the levels children’s independence, as well as how independently mobile children are allowed to be. Interestingly, one author claims that social capital levels have stayed unchanged in the UK since the 1950s, but levels of social trust ‘trusting others in the community’ have decreased significantly. If you think about the socio-economic changes that have happened in communities since this time, it is easy to spot the impact of this change in social trust. Many children are now, not allowed to play out on the streets, or be independently mobile, families have more commonly moved away from areas where they may have lived for generations, extended families have declined – often a grandparent would be around to keep an eye on children and live with their children and grandchildren. Another area of change has been the increase of women in the workplace, who until relatively recently were often stay at home mums or housewives. These changes, cumulatively, could be leading to community members feeling that their areas has become less safe, as more and more unfamiliar people are seen and social bonds are broken.
left – two women chatting, representing ‘social capital’, which plays an important part in communities feeling safe
Stahl, T. Rutten, A., Nutbeam, D., Bauman, A., Kannas, L., Abel, T., Luschen, G., Rodriquez, D.J.A., Vinck, J. & van der Zee, J., 2001. The importance of the social environment for physically active lifestyle – results from an international study. Social Science and Medicine, 52: 1-10