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Abstract

The authors examined social causation and social selection explanations for the association between perceptions of social support and psychological distress. Data came from a sample of 557 victims of natural disaster in Mexico. Structural equation modeling analyses indicated that social causation (more social support leading to less posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) explained the support-to-distress relationship in the earlier postdisaster phase, 6 to 12 months after the impact. Both causal mechanisms emerged as significant paths in the midpoint of the study (12 and 18 months). Only social selection (more PTSD leading to less social support) accounted for the support-to-distress relationship at 18 to 24 months after the event. Interpersonal and social dynamics of disasters may explain why these two contrasting causal mechanisms emerged over time.