Category: Couples / Close Relationships
Social support is a widely studied construct due to it’s important impacts on physical and mental health (Empadoor et al., 2015). A multitude of research has examined factors, such as personality traits and attachment style, which might relate to the amount of support one receives (Vogel & Wei, 2005; Bolger & Eckenrode, 1991). However, little work considers whether these factors directly predict the amount of support one receives, or if they simply predict the amount of support one needs, which may then impact how much support they receive. It is surprising that little research considers what factors might predict one’s need for support beyond life stress. This study investigated relations between personality traits (neuroticism and extraversion), attachment traits (avoidance and anxiety) and stress in predicting individual support needs, and how these factors predict support received directly, and indirectly through support needed.
Methods: 430 undergraduate college students completed study measures. The Inventory of Socially Supportive Behaviors (ISSB) was completed twice, once asking individuals to report their need for each form of support listed (Support Needed) and a second time to assess how often they actually received the same forms of support (Support Received). The Revised Adult Attachment Scale served as a measure of Attachment Avoidance and Attachment Anxiety, while the Big Five Inventory served as a measure of Neuroticism and Extraversion, and the Perceived Stress Scale served as a measure of perceived stress. A path model of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Attachment Avoidance, Attachment Anxiety, and Stress predicting Support Needed and Support Received was tested and modified for goodness of fit using LISREL 9.2.
Results: A good-fitting model was obtained after model respecification (X2 (7) =7.16, p = .41; RMSEA=0.007; GFI = .99). Support Needed was directly predicted by Extraversion (β = .15, p < .01) and Perceived Stress (β = .30, p < .001; R2 = .10). Received Support was directly predicted by Support Needed (β = .78, p < .001), Perceived Stress (β = -.07, p = .03), and Attachment Avoidance (β = .09, p < .001; R2 = .62). Indirect effects of Neuroticism and Attachment Anxiety (through stress) were significant in predicting Support Needed (both t > 3.56, both p < .05). Indirect effects of Stress, Extraversion, and Attachment Avoidance (through Support Needed), as well as Neuroticism, and Attachment Anxiety (through Stress) were all significant in predicting Support Received (all t > 1.92, all p < .05).
Discussion: Support needed was predicted by stress and extraversion, and indirectly by attachment anxiety and neuroticism through stress. This suggests that personality and attachment style factors may predict one’s need for support beyond the amount of stress present in one’s life. The strongest predictor of perceptions of received support was support needed, however, other factors still accounted for received support beyond one’s need for support. Beyond support needed, attachment avoidance and stress predicted support received directly, while all other factors indirectly predicted support received, through either stress or support needed. This suggests that people’s support needed may not be simply explained by the amount of stress in one’s life. Further, factors previously believed to directly predict support received may primarily relate to one’s need for support.
James Rankin– Graduate Student, The University of Alabama, Northport, Alabama
Mazheruddin Mulla– The University of Alabama
Courtney Paisley– The University of Alabama
Lorien Baker– Graduate Student, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Theodore Tomeny– Assistant Professor, The University of Alabama