A comparative study of family social capital and literacy practices in Singapore

Li Ren, Guangwei Hu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Social capital - the social relations between people - is an important component of the family environment and is crucial for the creation of human capital for the next generation. Drawing on James S. Coleman's theory of family capital, this study focuses on parents' utilization of social capital to support children's literacy acquisition in four Singaporean and immigrant middle-class Chinese families in Singapore. Comparative analyses of observation and interview data reveal that these families differed not only in the volume of social capital they possessed but also in the activation of this capital for their children's biliteracy and educational development. They also reveal that the parents' application of social capital is motivated by such factors as the status of the family (immigrant or native), parental occupation, parents' educational views and the family's acculturation to the host society (in the case of immigrant families). Furthermore, a family's skilful use of its social capital could compensate for a relative shortage of human capital. These findings, taken as a whole, contribute to Coleman's theory by disentangling potential from actualized social capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-130
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Early Childhood Literacy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • between-/within-family social capital
  • home literacy practices
  • human capital
  • immigrant families
  • intergenerational closure
  • literacy acquisition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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