Social capital is a sociological concept used to refer to connections within and between social networks. Though there are a variety of related definitions, they tend to share the core idea that social networks have value. Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a college education (human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so do social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups.
Early attempts to define social capital focused on the degree to which social capital as a resource should be used for public good or for the benefit of individuals. It has been suggested that social capital can facilitate co-operation and mutually supportive relations in communities and would therefore be a valuable means of combating many of the social disorders inherent in modern societies.
Child development is powerfully shaped by social capital and the continued presence of social capital has been linked to various positive outcomes, particularly in education. In areas where there is a high social capital, there is also a high education performance. When there is more parental participation in a child’s community and education, teachers have reported lower levels of student misbehavior.
It has been argued that one of the reasons social capital is so difficult to measure is that it is neither an individual nor a group level phenomenon, but one that emerges across discreet levels as individuals participate in groups. They argue that the metaphor of social capital may be misleading because unlike financial capital, which is a resource held by an individual, the benefits of forms of social organization are result of the participation of individuals in advantageously organized groups.