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Effects of Social Capital on the Psychosocial Adjustment of Chinese Migrant Children

Prof. Qiaobing Wu
Department of Social Work
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

This research applies the social capital theory to investigate how social capital embedded in the
family, school, peer, and community influence the psychosocial adjustment of Chinese migrant
children independently, jointly, and interactively. Drawing upon a sample of 772 pairs of migrant
children and their parents in Shanghai, China, the study addresses three major research questions:
1) How do family, school, peer and community social capital influence the psychosocial
adjustment of migrant children in mainland China as they exist simultaneously? 2) What are the
mechanisms by which various dimensions of social capital interact with each other to influence
children’s psychosocial adjustment? And 3) How does children’s personal agency in generating
and mobilizing each dimension of social capital moderate the effect of that type of social capital
on their psychosocial adjustment? Using structural equation modeling (via Mplus 5.0) with latent
variables, the study results suggest that: 1) family, school, and peer social capital significantly
influence the psychosocial adjustment of migrant children directly and positively; they also
mediate the effect of community social capital on the child’s adjustment; 2) the effect of family
social capital is contingent on the stock of community social capital, where higher levels of
community social capital boosters the effect of family social capital on children’s psychosocial
adjustment; and 3) children’s personal agency in generating and mobilizing social capital plays a
significant role in magnifying the positive effects of family, school, and peer social capital, but
not in modifying the function of community social capital. This research advances social capital
theory by demonstrating the multidimensional nature of social capital and by taking into account
children’s personal agency as a potential modifier of the social capital effects. Implications of the
research findings for the design and delivery of social services and social policy will be
discussed.