Violence and social capital among young men in Beirut

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Abstract

Background

Research on the links between violence and social capital has produced mixed results and is mainly limited to Western countries.

Aims

To assess the relationship of social capital to physical fights among unmarried boys aged 13–19 years living in three disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the outskirts of Beirut, controlling for variables associated with youth violence. Lebanon has a history of civil and cross-border war, which may influence the production of violence at the individual level.

Methods

674 boys were interviewed. The dependent variable was being involved in a physical fight in the last 3 months. The independent variable was social capital, classified into six categories: civic engagement and community development; locational capital; trust; reciprocity; hypothetical social support; and social network.

Results

One fifth (20%) had been in a fight in the last 3 months. Youth who were members of a group, who had been victimised, who could ask for help from a family member/friend/neighbour when they had a problem, and who liked living in their neighbourhood were more likely to be involved in a fight.

Conclusion

This research supports the literature that indicates that physical fights are positively related to both individual and social capital variables. Social capital had a detrimental effect on physical fights. This may be related to bonding in a gang-like way. While high levels of social capital are good for other health outcomes and thus should not be reduced, interventions that channel youth energy in positive ways are needed.

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