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Does Socioeconomic Status Moderate the Link Between Daily, Received Social Support and Daily Psychological and Physiological Outcomes?

  • Author(s): Hooker, Emily D.
  • Advisor(s): Campos, Belinda
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License

Despite the theorized benefits of receiving social support, an increasing number of studies have demonstrated that when individuals receive support, they are more likely to report poorer psychological outcomes and/or exhibit less adaptive physiological activity. Understanding these unexpected effects of receiving social support may require careful consideration of the sociocultural context that shapes these interactions (Berkman, Glass, Brissette, & Seeman, 2000). Social class, which is the social status individuals are afforded based on their income, education, and employment relative to others in their society (or socioeconomic status; SES), is one form of culture that exerts a powerful influence on thinking, feeling, and behaving (Kraus, Piff, Mendoza-Denton, Rheinschmidt, & Keltner, 2012; Stephens, Markus, & Phillips, 2014). Although understudied, it is possible that a greater need for resources, which characterizes lower SES contexts, may result in more frequent social support exchanges. As result, social support receipt and provision may be more normative and appreciated in these communities. My dissertation examined the relationship between daily, received social support and daily, psychological, physiological, and relational outcomes.

In two daily diary studies, SES was tested as a moderator in the relationships between daily, received social support and psychological, physiological, and relational outcomes. In Study 1, undergraduate students at a large research institution reported daily, received social support each evening for three days and psychological stress responses and diurnal cortisol throughout each day. Swiss couples from the community participated in Study 2. For 14 days, both members of the couple reported (1) their received and provided social support experiences after interacting with their partners for up to four times per day, (2) their psychological stress responses four times per day, and (3) their relationship satisfaction once per day (in the evening).

I found that SES moderated the association between received support and psychological and physiological outcomes. In both studies, the receipt of support (or visible support in study 2) was associated with positive psychological and relational outcomes, but not physiology. Subjective SES, however, moderated the association between received support and diurnal cortisol in Study 1. In this study, less received support was associated with a sleeper slope in diurnal cortisol in those who reported higher subjective SES. Furthermore, in Study 2, men who reported lower objective or subjective SES, reported lower daily psychological stress responses and higher relationship satisfaction when they received more visible support. Together, these findings suggest that SES may moderate the association between received support and psychological and relational outcomes. Finally, these results provide additional evidence for the benefits of receiving social support.

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