Loosening the Link between Childhood Poverty and Adolescent Smoking and Obesity

Evans, G. W., & Kutcher, R. (2011). Loosening the link between childhood poverty and adolescent smoking and obesity: The protective effects of social capital. Psychological Science, 22(1), 3-7.

Poverty is often associated with elevated health risks, such as a higher body mass index (BMI) and increased smoking behavior. Evans and Kutcher (2011) hypothesized that the negative effects of poverty on adolescent health may be reduced by sufficient social capital. In this study, social capital was defined as (1) Community cohesion — social ties and interdependence among community members, (2) Social control– informal adult supervision and willingness to intervene, and (3) Youths’ relationships adults in the community. Questionnaires were administered to 196 adolescents from rural counties of upstate New York and their mothers. Approximately half of the participants had family incomes below the poverty line. As hypothesized, low-income adolescents living in communities with high levels of social capital smoked less and had healthier BMI scores, than those living in communities with low levels of social capital. The authors called for greater investment in community resources in order to diminish the income-related health disparities.

Making Connections

Child rearing
Individualism and collectivism
Social support

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