Correlates of satisfaction with computer-mediated social support among adult burn survivors
Long, Cheryl Inmon
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This research examined perceptions of web-based burn support resources among adult burn survivors. Seventy-five participants completed the Social Support Questionnaire-Short Form (SSQ-6; Sarason, Sarason, Shearin, & Pierce, 1987); the Social Comfort Questionnaire (SCQ; Lawrence, Fauerbach, Heinberg, & Doctor, 2004); four subscales measuring coping preferences from the Coping with Burns Questionnaire (CBQ; Willebrand, Kildahl, Ekselius, Gerdin, & Andersson, 2001); a questionnaire pertaining to demographics, burn injury characteristics, and Internet utilization; and qualitative questions. Qualitative findings presented evidence that computer-mediated social support was beneficial. Computer-mediated support appeared to supplement an existing social support network specifically providing burn-related information and support. Participants perceived satisfaction from computer-mediated social support but perceived greater satisfaction with face-to-face sources of social support (i.e., from family and friends), which supported previous findings in other populations (Walther & Boyd, 2002). Correlates of perceived satisfaction with computer-mediated burn support included being able to communicate with others who had "been there" and high measures of social comfort, which was associated with support-seeking coping behaviors. Maladaptive avoidant coping behaviors appeared to interfere with availability of face-to-face but not with computer-mediated social support. Persons who utilized maladaptive coping behaviors invested half as much time in online burn support as persons with adaptive coping behaviors, but no significant differences were found between the two groups' perceived levels of satisfaction with computer-mediated social support. Because avoidant coping has been associated with a maladaptive post-burn outcome (e.g., Kildal, Willebrand, Andersson, Gerdin, & Ekselius, 2005), online burn support might be especially beneficial to individuals who lack adequate support. Participants also implied that computer-mediated burn support might especially benefit individuals upon discharge from hospitalization in order to obtain support and information and to alleviate a sense of isolation. Participants made suggestions for improving burn support services, including requests that medical professionals spread the word that online support services are available. Implications for future research, practice, and psychology training programs were discussed.