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Am J Community Psychol. 1998 Apr;26(2):281-306.

Computer-mediated social support: single young mothers as a model system.

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Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Forty-two single mothers with young infants were given access to a computer-mediated social support (CMSS) network concerned with parenting issues. The network operated 24 hours per day over a period of 6 months. It permitted public message exchanges, private e-mail, and text-based teleconferencing for as many as 8 participants at any one time. During the 6 month intervention, the 42 women accessed the network over 16,670 times. Individual differences in participation were significantly associated with indices of social isolation from peers. A descriptive analyses of the messages exchanged on the network disclosed that 98% of the replies to concerns posted in the public forum provided positive social support. The majority of the supportive replies fell into the category of emotional support, followed in order by informational and tangible support. Both the self-report data following the intervention, and qualitative data extracted from online discussions indicated that close personal relationships and a sense of community developed in this novel social environment. Finally, an analysis of pretest-posttest changes in the level of parenting stress revealed that mothers who participated regularly in this CMSS community were more likely to report a decrease in parenting stress following the intervention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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