Social support and stress: The role of social comparison and social exchange processes

Authors

  • Bram P. Buunk,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands
      Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Vera Hoorens

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands
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Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands

Abstract

This paper first presents four different conceptualizations of social support: social integration, satisfying relationships, perceived helpfulness and enacted support. Then, classic and contemporary social comparison theory and social exchange theory are analysed as they are two theoretical perspectives that are particularly useful in understanding social support. These perspectives are employed to explain three seemingly paradoxical phenomena in the domain of social support: (1) the fact that support sometimes has negative effects; (2) the fact that the occurrence of stress itself can sometimes decrease the availability of support resources; and (3) the phenomenon that people believe that they give more support than they receive, and that there is more support available for them than for others.

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