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Social capital has been found to be positively associated with various health and well-being outcomes amongst children. Less is known about how social capital might be generated. This is even more pronounced in relation to children in the school setting with children as active social agents in generating and utilising social capital. Based on the Health Promoting School intervention We Act the overall aim of this dissertation was therefore: To explore, evaluate and discuss how children’s participation in everyday school activities and specifically in a participatory health educational process relates to the development of social capital in the school setting.

The background for paper II and paper III was the We Act intervention developed for schoolchildren grade 5-6 within the We Act research study that this PhD builds upon. We Act was viewed as an instrumental case on a participatory health educational process. The point of departure for paper I was a focus on children’s experiences with their participation in everyday school situations. Social capital was operationalized as a dynamic multi-component concept with different indicators relating to the distinction between cognitive vs. structural social capital and the different ‘types’ including bonding, bridging and linking social capital, which can be viewed as practices. The method applied for paper I was an abductive research strategy based on 10 focus group interviews with children. The method applied for Paper II was a quasi-experimental controlled pre- and post intervention study design where multilevel ordinal logistic regression analysis was used to examine the effect of We Act. The method applied for Paper III was a multiple case study design based on a theory- driven abductive research strategy. Specific qualitative methods in paper III included focus group interviews with children, semi-structured interviews with teachers and school principals and participant observation.

Based on the children’s experiences of participation in everyday school situations paper I identified three forms of participation relating to different practices and thus different opportunities and constrains of generating bonding and bridging social capital in the school context. The study highlighted the importance of stressing pupils’ genuine participation as an active social pedagogical principle in the school setting. Paper II found no significant effect of the intervention on cognitive social capital delineating between horizontal social capital and vertical social capital at the six-month follow-up. A negative effect was found on the social capital indicator ‘sense of belonging in the school’. Paper III resulted in a conceptual framework that illustrated several mechanisms that interacted with the types of social capital and collective actions within a participatory health educational process. This indicated that working with child participation through the IVAC methodology can influence various types of social capital and collective actions though not without challenges. The framework, however, also emphasised on children’s limited agency in terms of affecting bridging and linking social capital, norms of reciprocity and collective actions without sufficient support mechanisms at the school and class levels. This might contribute to an understanding of the negative effect found on ‘sense of belonging in the school’ while also shedding light on the mechanisms that were found to influence the dark side of social capital.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby, Denmark
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
Number of pages123
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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