Neighborhood social capital and the Health and health risk behavior of adolescent immigrants and non-immigrants

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Neighborhood social capital and the Health and health risk behavior of adolescent immigrants and non-immigrants

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With the growing waves of immigrants and children of immigrants globally, it is important that we understand their health and health risk behaviors. Generally, limited studies exist on neighborhood social capital and adolescents and more specifically a comparative analysis involving immigrants and non-immigrants. The present study examined the relationship between social capital and health and health risk behaviors of immigrant and non-immigrant adolescents. More importantly, this study expands empirical investigation on the relevance of social capital among adolescent immigrants and non-immigrants. The study used Wave I (i.e., adolescents between ages 12-21 years) data of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a national representative longitudinal survey of adolescents including immigrants and racial and ethnic groups in the United States. The data were collected on adolescents from Grades 7-12 since 1994/1995 and the same cohort was followed as they transitioned into young adulthood. Chi-square and t-tests were performed to compare the patterns of differences stratified by immigrant status, gender, and Hispanics status. Multivariate regression analyses were also conducted to identify health promoting and risk factors for adolescent engagement in health risk behaviors. Major differences were found on the characteristics of adolescents, especially based on Hispanic status and gender. The multivariate analyses, such as logistic and OLS regression results, indicate that compared to older adolescents, younger adolescents are less likely to engage in risk behaviors such as alcohol consumption, smoking, and sexual activity. Also, whereas certain components of social capital such as family connectedness and sense of neighborliness improve adolescent health and reduce their engagement in health risk behaviors, family involvement, knowing neighbors, talking to neighbors, and perception of neighborhood safety can have a risk-promoting effect on children. Adolescent religiosity, English language use, and parental employment were also significant predictors of health and risk behaviors such as sexual activity, smoking, and alcohol use. From the study, there is no evidence of an association between immigrant status and adolescent health and health risk behaviors. However, various factors influence immigrants and non-immigrants health and health risk behaviors differently, thereby contributing to disparities in health and risk behaviors among adolescents. The results from the study suggest that social capital is an important predictor of adolescent health and health risk behaviors such as sexual activity, alcohol use, smoking, and drug injection. For example, family connectedness appears vital to adolescents' health and minimizes alcohol consumption, smoking, sexual debut, and drug use. However, family involvement improves adolescent health but does not necessarily reduce health risk behaviors. Therefore, we have to be aware that not all forms of social capital may be useful to adolescents' development. As a result, parents, families, and neighborhoods need to be supported to reduce risky adolescent behaviors. Thus, intervention programs that support quality parent-adolescent relationships and communication are essential for adolescent development and well-being.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2014. Major: Social Work. Advisor: Professor David Hollister. 1 computer file (PFD); iii, 194 pages, appendices A-B.

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Danso, Kofi. (2014). Neighborhood social capital and the Health and health risk behavior of adolescent immigrants and non-immigrants. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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