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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1990 Jan;58(1):80-9.

Victims' perceptions of social support: what is helpful from whom?

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles 90024-1563.


Although research has demonstrated that social interactions influence psychological well-being, little is known about what specific actions victims of stressful life events experience as helpful or unhelpful. Wortman and Dunkel-Schetter (1979) previously suggested that victims frequently experience rejection, withdrawal, and communication problems with those close to them. To address these issues, 55 cancer patients were interviewed concerning the specific actions they found to be helpful or unhelpful from several potential support providers: spouse, other family members, friends, acquaintances, others with cancer, physicians, and nurses. The data indicated that the Wortman and Dunkel-Schetter victimization model applied better to interactions with friends and acquaintances than to interactions with close family members. In addition, support was found to be partially dependent on the source: Particular actions were perceived to be helpful from some but not other network members. Implications for theory and research on social support are discussed.

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