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The Roots of Social Capital: Attitudinal and Network Mechanisms in the Relation between Youth and Adult Indicators of Social Capital

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One of the basic assumptions of social capital theory is that social interactions, whether in formal or informal settings, lead to socialization into pro-social value patterns such as generalized trust or reciprocity. This assumption has thus far been tested exclusively with adult populations. As a result, social capital studies tend to ignore a large body of political socialization research indicating that a number of crucial political behaviors and attitudes are already shaped at an early age, and that they continue to be rather stable during the life cycle. In this article, we use the Youth–Parent Socialization panel study (1965–1982) to demonstrate that with regard to generalized trust and participation, distinctive patterns are already in place during adolescence and continue into adulthood. Structural equation modeling produced support both for the attitudinal as for the network mechanism, although the stability with regard to trust was higher than with regard to participation. Our analysis suggests that social capital studies should, in the future, pay more attention to youth research than they have to date.Acta Politica (2004) 39, 422–441. doi:10.1057/palgrave.ap.5500081
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: aDepartment of Political Science, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A2T7., Email: [email protected] 2: bDepartement Politieke Wetenschappen, University of Leuven, E. van Evenstraat 2B, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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