Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



School of Medicine


Community Practice

Committee Chair

Kimberly Horn.


Social capital is an ecological theory that explains access to resources as a result of social relationships between individuals and communities. The appeal of social capital across scientific disciplines, including public health, lies in its ability to account for multiple individual and ecological factors in relation to health outcomes, economic and social disparity, and social empowerment as a result of social connections. However, scientists do not agree on the most appropriate indicators of social capital, and a panel of experts tasked with developing a methodological approach to measure social capital indicate that measurement should be context specific. Currently, there are no instruments available for researchers to measure the impact of social capital on health behaviors that is unique to college campuses. The primary goal of this project is to develop an instrument to measure social capital in college students which can then be used to assess the relationship between social capital and health behaviors in college students, such as cigarette use. The objectives of the dissertation include 1) to investigate the relationship between campus environment and individual behaviors using data from a large national college health survey; 2) to conduct a qualitative assessment to examine social capital in college students to ascertain differences between campus and hometown social capital; and 3) to develop an instrument to measure social capital specific to college students. We chose to focus on cigarette use in the first study because college students are at risk for cigarette smoking initiation and current occasional smokers are at risk of progression to heavy or daily smoking. The environment is recognized to have an influence on smoking initiation and maintenance, but the interaction between individual smoking behaviors and the college environment is largely unknown. We expect that the development of a college student social capital instrument will serve to increase understanding of the inter-relations between campus environment and individual characteristics and eventually be able to as relate them to smoking behaviors in college students. Such understanding can inform college campus-level smoking prevention and cessation interventions in order to achieve better and more efficient outcomes.