Edited By Do Kyun Kim and James W. Dearing
22. Social Support
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22. Social Support
STEPHEN A. RAINS,University of Arizona
Social support plays a central role in health and well-being (Cohen & Syme, 1985; Uchino, 2004). Despite widespread agreement about the benefits of social support, the way(s) in which it produces salutatory effects are not fully understood (Lakey & Cohen, 2000; Thoits, 2011). Support processes have been examined by scholars representing a range of disciplines from the social sciences to medicine. In this body of research, social support has been conceptualized and studied in a myriad of ways. This chapter considers measures of social support developed from four traditions that are particularly relevant to health communication. Social support is examined as behaviors enacted by others to provide physical or emotional assistance, perceptions that others are available to serve as a support resource, a preference for support from particular types of people, and specific messages shared with others. Each tradition is briefly reviewed and representative measures considered.
Measuring Social Support
Research on received support focuses on the degree to which one has been the recipient of specific acts of assistance during a given time period. Such assistance is defined broadly and can include advice and information, comforting and empathy, as well as physical acts such as providing transportation or help with housework. Received support is thought to improve health by bolstering one’s coping efforts (Lakey & Cohen, 2000). The inventory of socially supportive...
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