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Social Support in Interpersonal Communication

Daena J. Goldsmith

Subject Communication Studies » Interpersonal Communication

Key-Topics emotion, stress

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Social support is a diverse, multidisciplinary area of study that addresses the question: why do people who are involved in relationships tend to be mentally and physically healthier than those who are not? One approach to answering this question focuses on what people say and do to help one another cope with stress (enacted support or supportive communication). Alternatively, scholars have examined how cognitive schemas and beliefs about relationships influence one's coping and outlook on life (perceived available support). A third way of studying social support focuses on how integration in social networks shapes opportunities, information, immunity, and the flow of resources (social networks and social integration). Within each of these traditions, scholars have recognized that relationships are sometimes harmful rather than beneficial, and have sought to identify circumstances in which and processes through which social support has positive outcomes. The term “social support” emerged in the mid-1970s from several influential lectures, essays, and books that synthesized research showing how the social environment contributed to individual well-being. Over the next decade, considerable evidence accumulated to show that social support had beneficial effects, some of which came about through the ways social support buffers individuals from the otherwise detrimental effects of stress, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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