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The emotional meaning of instrumental social support


Semmer, N K; Elfering, A; Jacobshagen, N; Perrot, T; Beehr, T A; Boos, N (2008). The emotional meaning of instrumental social support. International Journal of Stress Management, 15(3):235-251.

Abstract

Functional social support can be described as emotional (i.e., caring, esteem, etc.) or instrumental (i.e., informational, tangible) support. Hypothesizing that instrumental support often is interpreted as helpful because of its emotional meaning (signalling caring, understanding, esteem), we asked hospital patients (N = 67) to describe situations (N = 109) during which they were supported, and to indicate why this support was helpful. Both the description of the supportive behaviors and the meaning attributed to them were coded with regard to their instrumental versus emotional quality. As expected, many situations that were instrumental in descriptive terms were emotional in terms of meaning; the reverse occurred very seldom. This effect was confined to "private" interactions (i.e. interactions involving family and friends), whereas instrumental behaviors of medical professionals were largely instrumental in meaning as well. Results underscore the importance of giving instrumental support in a way that communicates care and esteem.

Abstract

Functional social support can be described as emotional (i.e., caring, esteem, etc.) or instrumental (i.e., informational, tangible) support. Hypothesizing that instrumental support often is interpreted as helpful because of its emotional meaning (signalling caring, understanding, esteem), we asked hospital patients (N = 67) to describe situations (N = 109) during which they were supported, and to indicate why this support was helpful. Both the description of the supportive behaviors and the meaning attributed to them were coded with regard to their instrumental versus emotional quality. As expected, many situations that were instrumental in descriptive terms were emotional in terms of meaning; the reverse occurred very seldom. This effect was confined to "private" interactions (i.e. interactions involving family and friends), whereas instrumental behaviors of medical professionals were largely instrumental in meaning as well. Results underscore the importance of giving instrumental support in a way that communicates care and esteem.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:August 2008
Deposited On:16 Feb 2009 19:31
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:01
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:1072-5245
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/1072-5245.15.3.235

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