Date of Award

8-1-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Gilbert, Brenda

Abstract

This investigation included two studies that examined the perspectives of support recipients (Study 1) and support providers (Study 2) regarding the context of social support seeking due to a violent or non-violent conflict with a romantic partner. Study 1 participants (78 female, 78 male) and Study 2 participants (73 female, 89 male) identified predominantly as European-American (48.1% in Study 1 and 50% in Study 2) and African-American (36.5% in Study 1 and 38.9% in Study 2). Social support responses were measured with Ullman's (2010) Social Reactions Questionnaire (SRQ). Results revealed that many of the expected differences in social support reactions by gender, ethnicity, and intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization status were not supported. However, this investigation found a gender difference in the emotional support response, where females provided (F (1, 290) = 13.11, p < .001, partial η2 = .04) and received (F (1, 133) = 15.68, p < .001, partial η2 = .11) higher emotional support more frequently than males. When social support was provided to IPV victims, support providers reacted with egocentric support responses more often (F (1, 122) = 9.53, p < .003, partial η2 = .07) than when providing support for individuals not experiencing IPV. A comparison of Study 1 and Study 2 revealed that support providers (Study 2 participants) provided emotional support (F (1, 290) = 7.79, p < .05, partial η2 = .03), treating differently (F (1, 290) = 9.51, p < .01, partial η2 = .03), distraction (F (1, 290) = 10.09, p < .01, partial η2 = .03), taking control (F (1, 290) = 21.56, p < .001, partial η2 = .07), and tangible aid (F (1, 290) = 9.92, p < .01, partial η2 = .03) more frequently than support recipients (Study 1 participants) received. Regarding helpfulness of support responses, one difference emerged whereby female friends who provided distraction responses were viewed as more helpful than male friends who distracted (F (1, 50) = 9.40, p < .01, partial η2 = .16). This investigation suggests that gender, IPV victimization status, and type of participant (support provider, support recipient) are variables that impact social support during a conflict with a romantic partner. Measurement issues regarding the SRQ limited the ability to determine the helpfulness/harmfulness of social support reactions. Future research is necessary to continue to investigate the types of social support that are considered helpful when disclosing conflict with a partner.

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