When we say “perceived support,” what do we mean? Contexts and components of support among people with serious medical conditions
Rivers, Alannah Shelby
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Perceived social support is important for numerous health outcomes in people with serious medical conditions; however, previous studies have targeted different assessment contexts (including single people or partnered people reporting on either general or relationship-specific support) and different components of perceived support (including positive and negative interactions and support availability). The present study investigated potential functional differences across these contexts and components. A sample of 340 people with serious medical conditions were recruited via market research panels to complete online questionnaires. The sample included three assessment context groups and participants completed scales assessing three components of perceived support along with criterion variables regarding treatment adherence, affect, coping, and aspects of general psychological functioning. Results suggested a high degree of functional invariance across the different assessment contexts, but important distinctions between the different components of perceived support. Following theoretical expectations, each component explained unique variance in different sets of criterion variables. Results suggest that it is meaningful for researchers to generalize across assessment contexts, but important to distinguish between components of perceived support.