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Organ Behav Hum Decis Process. 2011 Jan 1;114(1):49-63.

Explaining the Variable Effects of Social Support on Work-Based Stressor-Strain Relations: The Role of Perceived Pattern of Support Exchange.

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1
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Abstract

Seeking to explain mixed empirical findings regarding the buffering effect of social support on work-based stress-strain relations, we posit that whether an increase in the level of support received buffers or exacerbates the harmful effects of workload on employee health and well-being is contingent upon the general pattern characterizing an employee supportive exchanges across his/her close relationships. Specifically, we propose that the buffering effect of receiving social support depends on whether the employee perceives his/her social exchanges as reciprocal (support given equals support received), under-reciprocating (support given exceeds support received), or over-reciprocating (support received exceeds support given). Based on longitudinal data collected from a random sample of blue-collar workers, our findings support our predictions, indicating that the buffering effect of social support on the relationship between work hours (on the one hand) and employee health and well-being (on the other) varies as a function of the pattern of exchange relations between an employee and his/her close support providers.

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