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Social Support Effectiveness: Interpersonal Complementarity and Mediating Factors in Friends' Conversations


This exploratory study examined how young adult friends' complementarity on the interpersonal traits of Dominance (i.e., difference) and Warmth (i.e., similarity) was associated with enacting distinct support styles and the evaluation of that support's effectiveness. Using a novel, naturalistic design that allowed friends to record themselves in everyday settings, 62 participants (69% female) recruited two close, same-sex friends to discuss interpersonal problems they were having with other people. Over two weeks at home, participants audio-recorded and evaluated two 10-minute conversations with each friend. In total, nearly 250 ten minute conversations were examined in the present study. Researchers coded the support in the conversation transcripts as Problem-focused or Emotion-focused. Using hierarchical polynomial regression and surface modeling, friends' complementary Dominance was associated in a nonlinear saddle configuration with higher evaluations of the helpfulness of the support; this relationship was fully mediated by friends' enacting more Problem focused support. Complementary Warmth was not associated with support effectiveness or enacted support style. Implications for young adult friendships are discussed, as well as recommendations for studying interpersonal theory more dynamically and proximally.

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