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Theses Doctoral

Social Support Networks of the Blind and Visually Impaired Young Adults

Weiner, Arthur

This research was undertaken to analyze and to describe the social support networks of a non-random sample of 55 legally blind and visually impaired young adults, 20 to 50 years, inclusive. Modified versions of the Arizona Social Support Inventory Scale (Barrera, 1981, 1983), and the Network Analysis Profile (Cohen and Sokolovsky, 1978) were used to examine key aspects of network structure and to evaluate the attributes of network links.

Results from this study indicate that with the exception of network size, the level of visual impairment may have less impact on network structure than such factors as age of onset of blindness, type of school attended, acceptance of blindness, marital status, gender, and mastery.

Study findings also contribute some support for optimism with regard to the level of social integration achieved by study subjects. The majority of men and women in the sample showed evidence of access to all essential varieties of social support including: companionship, advice, material assistance, physical assistance, affirmation, and emotional support. A relatively small percentage of the total sample lacked access to all six of the above listed dimensions of social support. Only two of fifty-five subjects had networks that contained fewer than five persons. The average network contained ten persons. Subjects with the smallest networks were prone to be less educated, unmarried/formerly married, and unemployed. Stepwise multiple regression procedures identified employment status, mastery, level of functional vision, and gender as significant predictors of expanded networks.

Young adult subjects clearly considered kin as their first line of social support. Kin supporters outnumbered nonkin supporters by close to two to one, however, nonkin proved to contribute a larger proportion of total support than did kin. Degree of visual impairment did not influence the observed pattern of support provision, nor did age. Subjects also demonstrated heavy reliance upon friends, spouses and siblings in the form of a high percentage of multi-dimensional ties.

Subjects identified their immediate social surroundings as the context most frequently associated with the origination of new friendships. However, organized programs sponsored and operated by agencies that serve blind and visually impaired persons were frequently associated with the origination of new nonkin ties. Significant relationships also linked residential school attendance to a number of psychosocial measures that indicate successful adjustment to blindness.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 28, 2015