Eric D. Widmer

Widmer, E.D. (2007). Social capital in wide family contexts: An empirical assessment using social network methods. International Review of Sociology, vol. 17, n° 2, pp. 225-238.

Using a sociometric approach to family relationships, we test the hypothesis that the way individuals define their family context has a strong impact on the types and amount of social capital available to them. Binding social capital is defined in terms of network closure, i.e. a redundancy of ties within a group. From this perspective, social capital is to be found in groups with a high density of connections, network closure enhancing expectations, claims, obligations and trust among individuals because of the increase of normative control. ridging social capital is an alternative way of defining family social capital as a function of brokerage opportunities: the weaker connections between subgroups of a network create holes in the social structure which provide some persons brokers with opportunities to mediate the flow of information between group members and hence control the projects that bring them together. Using a sample of college students from Switzerland, we found that family contexts based on blood relationships such as those with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, provide a ‘binding’ type of social capital, whereas family contexts based on friendship provide a ‘bridging’ type of social capital. Inclusion of stepparents is associated with neither type of social capital.
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