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Buffering Hypothesis

  1. Richard F. Farmer1,
  2. Norman D. Sundberg2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0145

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Farmer, R. F. and Sundberg, N. D. 2010. Buffering Hypothesis. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Oregon Research Institute

  2. 2

    University of Oregon

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The buffering hypothesis suggests that under some conditions social support protects (or “buffers”) individuals from the harmful effects of stressful situations. Two important conditions must be satisfied to demonstrate the buffering effect: (1) individuals must experience relatively high levels of stress in response to a stressful situation, and (2) social support is defined in terms of the availability of interpersonal resources that can potentially offset needs occasioned by the stressful event. This specific type of social support is sometimes referred to as “instrumental support” (Cohen, 1988; Cohen & Wills, 1985), examples of which include financial aid, material resources, and needed services. The buffering hypothesis has been evaluated in a variety of areas of human functioning (e.g., depression, substance abuse, physical health) and in studies of immune response functioning among monkeys.


  • stress;
  • social support;
  • buffering effect;
  • main effects model;
  • well–being