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A Preference for Self-Reliance. Beyond the Typical Conceptualization of Social Support in Close Relationships: Can Less be More?

Snyder, Kenzie Aryn

Social support is classically conceptualized as “what you can do” or “what you can offer” to support someone in times of stress. But for some individuals, could less be more when it comes to social support? Empirical research has shown that support receipt can have differential effects. A preference for self-reliance in stressful situations might be one explanation as to why social support is not always beneficial for some individuals.
The current work introduces the phenomenon that some people prefer to be self-reliant in times of stress, i.e., they want to independently deal with the stressor instead of receiving direct supportive acts from a partner or someone else. Across seven studies, within three unique populations, and through low and high stress periods, we aimed to understand individual differences in a preference for self-reliance within close relationships. We discovered that a preference for self-reliance is a common phenomenon from adolescence through adulthood. This preference matters at a daily level across different outcomes and relationships, and is an integral part of daily human interaction affecting support transactions across different support providers. People with certain personality traits may be more likely to prefer self-reliance. The interaction between a preference for self-reliance and social support provision has important implications during critical time periods such as the college application process. Times of acute stress are particularly revealing of links between a preference for self-reliance and support transactions.
Wanting to be self-reliant in stressful situations may be a more common desire than previously thought in the literature on close relationships. Individual differences such as the preference for self-reliance may explain the mixed effects of social support. The addition of preference for self-reliance as an individual difference impacting support transactions expands the field’s current understanding of social support and support provision. We now know that there is a desired form of support beyond the classic conceptualization of social support and, for some, less is in fact more.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Bolger, Niall Paul
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 6, 2017
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