Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name



Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

First Advisor

Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale


Social sciences, Canadian youth, Sexual intercourse, Social capital




This dissertation examines the nature of social capital and the mechanisms of its development and mobilization as it relates to the sexual behaviour of young people in Canada between the ages of 16 and 19 years. It extends the youth-centred social capital literature, pioneered by Virginia Morrow, and builds upon its foundations to integrate it with the youth sexuality literature. Using cycles two through four of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), the dissertation examines the relative influence that social context at various sites, including family, school, peers, leisure activities and community groups, has on the timing of first sexual intercourse among Canadian youth. It explores how these influences differ by gender and at three time points during adolescence. The results suggest that social capital in peer groups is the dominant influence on the timing of first sexual intercourse, but that social capital within the family and within broader community relationships also exert an influence. The analysis suggests that the influence of social capital on the timing of first sexual intercourse differs for males and females and is dynamic, with various contexts differing in their influence as young people transition through adolescence. Drawing on in-depth interviews with young people in Southwestern Ontario, it examines the nature of social capital for this age group and the ways in which young people actively develop and mobilize their social capital. The findings suggest that social capital is actively developed by young people in the context of daily interactions with family members, peers, and community members. The findings demonstrate the constraints placed on young people's ability to develop and mobilize social capital by community infrastructure, age and gender. The findings point to the ways in which social capital influences the sexualities of young people through social norms, lines of communication, information channels and opportunities. The dissertation concludes by suggesting a need for policies and public health practice that move beyond a focus on individual behaviours and that address the social contexts influence the sexual decisions of young people.