Social skills and the stress-protective role of social support
journal contributionposted on 1986-05-01, 00:00 authored by Sheldon CohenSheldon Cohen, Margaret S Clark, Drury R Sherrod
Conducted cross-sectional analyses of data collected from 609 15–27 yr old incoming college freshmen to determine (a) whether the perceived availability of social support protects persons from stress-induced depressive affect; (b) whether social competence, social anxiety, and self-disclosure are responsible for the stress-protective effect of perceived social support; and (c) whether these social skill measures discriminate among persons for whom support will help, hinder, or be ineffective in the face of stress. Prospective analyses based on the original testing (beginning of school year) and 11- and 22-wk follow-ups of a randomly selected subsample (130 and 93 Ss in 1st and 2nd follow-ups, respectively) were used to determine how the same social skill factors influence the development and maintenance of support perceptions and of friendships. Evidence is provided for a stress-buffering role of the perceived availability of social support. The stress-buffering effect is unaffected by controls for the possible stress-protective influences of social anxiety, social competence, and self-disclosure. Although these social skill factors do not discriminate among persons for whom support will help, hinder, or be ineffective, they are prospectively predictive of the development of both social support and friendship formation. These prospective relations between social skills and the development of perceived availability of social support are only partly mediated by number of friends.