Structural relationships between social support and coping
Relationships between social support and coping were examined over a one-year period in a sample (n = 120) exposed to a specific stressor (i.e. a spinal cord injury). Two issues were evaluated: (1) patterns of social support and coping over time; and (2) the direction of the effects of coping on social support or vice versa. Subjects had incurred a spinal cord injury within the preceding year, completed their rehabilitation, and returned to the community. They were assessed at 1, 4 and 12 months post-discharge to capture possible changes in patterns of social support and coping. Covariance structure modelling indicated a single-factor construct based on three measured subscales for social support (instrumental/informational/emotional), and for coping (problem-oriented/perception-oriented/emotion-oriented). While the factor structure of coping was invariant over time, the structure of social support changed from a high concentration of informational support at one month to a higher saturation of emotional support at 4 and 12 months, potentially reflecting changes in the salience of different components of the network. The perceived availability of social support was seen to have direct effects on future coping. At one month, social support had a direct positive effect on coping at four months. However, at four months social support had a negative effect on coping at 12 months, which may reflect a change in the structure of the social support construct itself. That is, as the factor structure of social support varied with time, coping may also have been influenced by differing perception of one's needs and circumstances. Thus, the study provides evidence for the dynamic effects of social support on coping, depending on one's stage in the process of long-term adjustment. The findings underscore the interplay between social support and coping, and the need for future research and practical applications to recognize temporal effects on the relationships between these two complex constructs.
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Volume (Year): 41 (1995)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
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