The effects of social support on adjustment to stress: The mediating role of coping


  • The second study reported in this article was supported by an Australian Research Council grant awarded to the first author. Thanks are due to Gloria Hynes, who helped with data collection and data entry. Portions of this article were presented at the 7th International Conference on Personal Relationships held at Groningen, The Netherlands, July 1994.

should be addressed to Deborah J. Terry, Psychology Department, The University of Queensland, Qld 4072, Australia. Fax: 61 7 365 4466; email:


The present research tested Thoits' (1986) proposal that coping mediates in the relationship between social support and adjustment to stress in two different contexts, namely adjustment to work stress and women's adjustment to the birth of their first child. The research was also designed to examine whether sources of support are more likely to influence coping if they are similar to the support recipient or proximal to the source of stress. In the first study, 137 employees from a large retail organization participated. Measures of social support (from supervisor, work colleagues, nonwork network members) and coping were obtained at Time 1. Two weeks later (Time 2), measures of employee adjustment were obtained. The second study was conducted on 197 expectant mothers. The measures of social support (from partner, family members, nonfamily members) were obtained at Time 1, coping was assessed at Time 2, and adjustment (self-report and husband ratings) was assessed at Time 3. Results of structural equation analyses revealed, in the first study, that the effects of colleague support on levels of adjustment were mediated through coping responses. In contrast, the effects of supervisor support on adjustment (job satisfaction) were direct. In Study 2, there was evidence that the effects of partner support on women's adjustment to new parenthood were mediated through coping responses. In contrast, levels of family support had direct effects on self-reported and external measures of adjustment.