Abstract and Keywords
Social support has been consistently linked to mental and physical health. This chapter focuses on three theoretical approaches to social support. Stress and coping social support theory has dominated research and predicts that objectively observable supportive actions buffer the effects of stress by promoting adaptive appraisals and coping. Relational regulation theory is new and focuses on links between perceived support and mental health regardless of stress. According to this theory, mental health is maintained by ordinary, yet affectively-consequential conversations and shared activities, and perceived support reflects these processes. The types of people and actions that are perceived as supportive by recipients are largely a matter of personal taste. Life-span theory describes how social support emerges through attachment processes in childhood and develops in tandem with adaptive personality characteristics such as optimism and low hostility. Together, support and adaptive personality characteristics promote health through proactive coping that prevents stress from occurring. Research findings bearing on these theories are described, and priorities for future research are identified.
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