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The Handbook of Lifespan Communication


Jon F. Nussbaum

The Handbook of Lifespan Communication is the foundational scholarly text that offers readers a state of the art view of the varied and rich areas of lifespan communication research. The fundamental assumptions of lifespan communication are that the very nature of human communication is developmental, and, to truly understand communication, change across time must be incorporated into existing theory and research. Beginning with chapters on lifespan communication theory and methodologies, chapters are then organized into the various phases of life: early childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Top scholars across several disciplines have contributed to chapters within their domains of expertise, highlighting significant horizons that will guide researchers for years to come.
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Chapter Fourteen: Friend Me, Poke Me, Then Comfort Me: An Exploration of Supportive Communication in Online Social Networking Sites



An Exploration of Supportive Communication in Online Social Networking Sites


Adolescence, the developmental period approximating the teenage years and early twenties, is a troubling time characterized by stressful events, complicated transitions, and conflicted feelings (Arnett, 2000). Scholars have reported that adolescents perceive limits to their social skills and doubt their ability to develop mature relationships (Martin, 2000). Symptoms of depression also peak during adolescence, particularly among college students who are isolated from their normal social networks (Morgan & Cotten, 2003). To experiment and help cope with the changes in their lives, the use of alcohol and marijuana peaks in late adolescence, and cigarette use increases during this time (Bates & Labouvie, 1997). Arnett (2000) argued that these risky behaviors are the result of coping with changes in identity. Because adolescence is characterized by change and uncertainty, adolescents require assistance to help them navigate this phase of the lifespan.

To help them cope with the traumatic events and emotions associated with a perceived life in transition, adolescents can turn to members of their social networks. The benefits of social support have been documented in prior research, and some scholars assert that receiving support from others is a core requirement of social relationships (Turner, 1981). In particular, social support helps people manage physical, mental, social, and personal stressors, which arise in a multitude of situations (Burleson & MacGeorge, 2002). Supportive communication promotes heightened social competence, improved coping skills, reduced emotional distress, and enhanced...

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