Date of Award

8-2015

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Douglas W. Nangle

Second Committee Member

Cynthia A. Erdley

Third Committee Member

Shannon K. McCoy

Additional Committee Members

Jordan P. LaBouff

Rachel L. Grover

Abstract

This study tested the hypothesis that socially supportive behaviors are interpreted as more supportive if they match the desires of the recipient. Rather than focusing solely on the total amount of social support received, this study evaluated the match between desired support and received support. Innovative statistical techniques assessed this match across three close relationships. Identifying the level of supportive behaviors individuals perceive as supportive is complicated. This may be because most studies examine social support only in one particular relationship. The present study addressed this gap in the literature by gathering information from the participants’ same-sex best friends, mothers, and romantic partners. Research shows that these three relationships are the greatest sources of social support for late adolescents and college students (Furman & Buhrmester, 1992). By obtaining self- and cross-reported discrepancy scores in each of these relationships, the discrepancies of socially supportive behaviors were calculated.

The current study took a detailed look at social support across multiple relationships for 257 participants. More specifically, the match between desired and received, desired and enacted, and received and enacted socially supportive behaviors were hypothesized to be significant predictors of perceived social support, which in turn influence global social support satisfaction. The relationships among these variables were tested in a comprehensive statistical model. Overall, consistent evidence was found for positive associations between relationship-specific perceptions of social support and global social support satisfaction. Evidence for the associations between discrepancy scores and relationship-specific perceptions of social support, however, was mixed. Self-reported discrepancy scores were negatively associated with relationship-specific social support in caregiver and romantic relationship models. The cross-reporter agreement score showed a significant negative association with relationship-specific social support in the caregiver model. Contrary to expectations, the cross-reporter discrepancy score showed a positive association with relationship-specific social support in the caregiver and romantic relationship models. These mismatches showed a significant pathway in the presence of the total amount of received social support and had an indirect effect on global social support satisfaction. These findings suggest that discrepancy scores are an important indicator of perceived social support and global social support satisfaction.

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