Abstract: Social Cohesion's Relationship with Social Capital: Are There Differences By Family Structure? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

192P Social Cohesion's Relationship with Social Capital: Are There Differences By Family Structure?

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sheila Barnhart, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Theresia Pachner, MSSW, Doctoral Student, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Steven Buchanan, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Kentucky
Janet Otachi, MA, Program Coordinator/ Doctoral Student, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background and Purpose: Neighborhood social cohesion and individual social capital are two factors that promote health and well-being among children and families. Social cohesion can be protective against depression, child maltreatment, and certain negative health outcomes. Additionally, social capital may be protective against economic disadvantage and illnesses by enhancing social resilience and opportunities. Single (unmarried) mother families constitute the highest proportion of families living in poverty in the US.  Understanding the relationships between social cohesion and social capital with respect to family structure is important to inform interventions and polices that aim to reduce health and wellness disparities among this population.  Our research questions for this study are (1) Does social cohesion predict social capital? (2) Does the relationship between social cohesion and social capital vary by family structure?

Methods: We used data from 3219 mothers who participated in the 5th and 6th wave of the longitudinal Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing (FFCW) study.  Social cohesion was assessed by 5 items on a 4-pt scale measuring mothers’ agreement with how interactive and supportive their neighborhoods were (e.g. The neighborhood is close-knit), social capital was assessed by 4 binary items (yes/no responses) regarding mothers’ perception of instrumental support (e.g. knows someone who could provide emergency childcare).  Structural equation modeling (SEM) tested whether social capital at wave 6 was predicted by social cohesion at wave 5 controlling for mothers’ education, employment status and poverty status.  We employed separate structural equation models for married and unmarried mothers.

Results: Among married mothers, both the measurement model and SEM yielded acceptable model fit (x2(18)= 30.376 [p<0.001], RMSEA= 0.023 [CI 0.006 - 0.037],CFI=0.998, TLI=0.997; x2(39)= 145.031 [p<0.001], RMSEA= 0.048 [CI 0.040 - 0.056],CFI=0.984, TLI=0.979, respectively).  Social cohesion predicted social capital (G= 0.241, p<.001) beyond the impact of maternal education, employment and poverty status.  Unmarried mothers also revealed a positive relationship between social cohesion and social capital, however the effect was nearly half of that for married mothers (B= 0.124, p<.001).  Model fit for unmarried mothers’ measurement and structural models also yielded significant fit (x2(18)= 71.423 [p<0.001], RMSEA= 0.039 [CI 0.029 - 0.048],CFI=0.995, TLI=0.992; x2(39)= 102.527 [p<0.001], RMSEA= 0.030 [CI 0.023 - 0.037],CFI=0.994, TLI=0.992, respectively).

Conclusions and Implications: Among samples of married and unmarried mothers, we found that higher social cohesion was associated with increased social capital.  Our findings are consistent with the literature reporting that social capital is strongly tied to economic factors.  The impact of social cohesion on mothers’ social capital was greater for married mothers than unmarried mothers. These findings suggest that unmarried mothers are not only economically disadvantaged but also seem to get less out of social capital. The unequal relationships among social cohesion and social capital between married and unmarried mothers may perpetuate inequality by limiting the opportunities for social mobility.  Social work practitioners and researchers should consider interventions and policies that enhance social capital among unmarried mothers to lessen this effect.