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Brian Lakey


Perceived social support has been consistently linked with better mental health. The link between support and affect may due to personality or social influences. The present studies examined the link between support and affect at the level of recipient personality and three social influences: objective provider characteristics, the unique relationship between recipient and provider, and the changing relationship across occasions. Recipient personality effects reflect individual differences in how recipients rate the supportiveness of the same providers. Provider effects reflect agreement among recipients as to the relative supportiveness of providers. Relationship effects reflect systematic differences in how recipients rate provider support. Relationship by Occasion effects reflect changes in the Relationship across occasions. The link between perceived support and mental health may occur at any one, or all, of these levels. This paper presents two studies in which recipients met with the same four providers on multiple occasions. Recipients and providers rated affect experienced during the conversation and provider support. Observers rated the video conversations and judged recipient and provider affect and provider support. The goals were to (1) estimate the extent to which the link between support and affect reflects recipient personality and social influences; (2) differentiate between cognitive and behavioral mechanisms and (3) examine the stability of the relationship effect across multiple occasions. Results indicated that the link between social support and affect occurs at the level of recipient personality and the relationship. Relationship effects were stable across occasions. Inconsistent evidence was found for a link at the level of objective provider characteristics. Behavioral mechanisms for recipient personality and relationship influences were riot identified and therefore cognitive mechanisms were supported. Implications for social support theory and intervention were discussed.

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