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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1986 May;50(5):963-73.

Social skills and the stress-protective role of social support.


Cross-sectional analyses of data collected from a large sample of incoming college freshmen were used to determine whether the perceived availability of social support protects persons from stress-induced depressive affect; whether social competence, social anxiety, and self-disclosure are responsible for the stress-protective effect of perceived social support; and whether these social skill measures discriminate among persons for whom support will help, hinder, or be ineffective in the face of stress. Prospective analyses based on the original testing (beginning of school year) and 11- and 22-week follow-ups of a randomly selected subsample were used to determine how the same social skill factors influence the development and maintenance of support perceptions and of friendships. Evidence is provided for a stress-buffering role of the perceived availability of social support. The stress-buffering effect is unaffected by controls for the possible stress-protective influences of social anxiety, social competence, and self-disclosure. Although these social skill factors do not discriminate among persons for whom support will help, hinder, or be ineffective, they are prospectively predictive of the development of both social support and friendship formation. These prospective relations between social skills and the development of perceived availability of social support are only partly mediated by number of friends.

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