Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Social Sciences, Media and Communications


In this thesis, I explore youth social capital. I am interested in identifying what youth social capital is, how it is fostered and reproduced and how this may differ from adult forms. I argue that current conceptualisations of social capital are inadequate to understand the social capital of young people and that these inadequacies have led some youth social capital theorists to label the social capital of young people as defective or incomplete; with some describing young people as possessing ‘bad’ or ‘dark’ social capital or being social capital deficient.

I further maintain that the conceptualisation of social capital as existing beyond the processes of class, culture and gender is flawed, as social capital is not fostered and reproduced in isolation, but each of these processes influences the ability of an individual to foster and reproduce social capital by establishing or facilitating the individual’s key life circumstances. Consequently, I propose that it is essential to approach its measurement holistically.

Finally, I argue that due to the differences between youth and adult social capital, the indicators and tools used to measure social capital are inadequate for use on a youth population. In light of this, I suggest the use of 12 indicators of youth social capital, which guide my analysis, and two purposely built generators with which to measure youth social capital.

As a result, the main objective of this study was to find answers to three main questions: what is youth social capital? How do class, culture, and gender affect social capital formation and reproduction? What models and tools can be used to measure youth social capital?

In order to do this, I have combined a review on current social capital literature, together with ethnographic research, using data collected from focus groups and more ‘typical’ social capital tools including a survey and two hybrid generators. This thesis, then, makes use of both qualitative and quantitative data in order to explore the stocks of social capital held by 50 young people of the Wollondilly Shire, south-west of Sydney.

This study concludes that youth social capital does indeed vary from its adult form. I propose that the social capital of a young person is neither defective nor incomplete, but is instead simply ‘different’. This study has shown youth social capital to be vibrant and complex, beyond anything I could have possibly imagined.