Developing Behavioral Theory With the Systematic Integration of Community Social Capital Concepts

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16 Scopus citations


Health behavior theories state that social environments influence health behaviors, but theories of how this occurs are relatively underdeveloped. This article systematically surveys community social capital concepts in health behavior literature and proposes a conceptual framework that integrates these concepts into existing behavioral theory. Fifty-three studies tested associations between community social capital concepts and physical activity (38 studies), smoking (19 studies), and diet (2 studies). Trustworthiness of community members was consistently associated with more health-promoting and less disease-promoting behaviors in 19 studies. Neighborly reciprocity showed mixed results in 10 studies. Reporting a good sense of community was associated with more physical activity in only 5 of 16 studies. Neighborhood collective efficacy, which includes social cohesion and informal social control, was inconsistently associated with behaviors in 22 studies. Behavioral social norms were associated with smoking and physical activity in 2 of 6 studies, and neighborhood modeling of physical activity was associated with increased activity in 12 of 17 studies, with 1 opposing result. This review identifies several community social capital–related concepts that are, at times, associated with both health-promoting and disease-promoting behaviors and often have no associations. Theory explains these findings by describing the relationships and interactions among these concepts. Using these findings, this article proposes a conceptual framework that integrates community social capital concepts into existing behavioral theory. Iterative empirically based theory development is needed to address these concepts, which affect behaviors. These results can also inform theoretically based community-based and socially tailored interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-375
Number of pages17
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2014


  • community
  • health behavior
  • neighborhood
  • social capital
  • social cohesion
  • social determinants
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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