Perceived Social Support for Relationships As a Predictor of Relationship Well-Being and Mental and Physical Health in Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Relationships: A Longitudinal Investigation

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Blair, Karen Lyndsay
social support for relationships , approval of relationships , relationship disapproval , social support and health , social network support , same-sex vs. mixed-sex relationships , social psychology , longitudinal , relationship dissolution , same-sex relationships , mental and physical health , structural equation modeling , support from parents vs. friends
Intimate relationships function not in isolation, but within a broader social network and social environment, in which the opinions and actions of close network members can play a role in how a relationship develops. The current study investigated how perceiving support for one’s relationship (including same-sex and mixed-sex relationships) from friends and family is associated with not only relationship well-being, but also the mental and physical health of the individuals within the relationship. After establishing that social support specifically for a relationship was indeed a separate and unique construct as compared to more general social support for an individual, the study tested a hypothesized model using structural equation modeling, finding evidence for a model in which the association between support for a relationship and the health outcomes for an individual is fully mediated by relationship well-being. Relationship type (i.e., same-sex versus mixed-sex) was not a significant moderator, indicating that regardless of relationship type, individuals who perceive more support for their relationship are also more likely to report greater relationship satisfaction and better mental and physical health. Furthermore, participants provided data up to three times over a period of three years, allowing for an examination of how social support for a relationship functions as a predictor of relationship well-being and health outcomes over time. Perceived social support for a relationship at Time 1 was found to be a significant predictor of the rate of relationship dissolution over the course of the study as well as relational and health outcomes at later points in time. With respect to the source of support for the relationship, evidence was found that support from parents and friends both have associations with relationship outcomes, but these findings were inconsistent across analyses with support from parents having stronger associations in some analyses and support from friends having stronger associations in others. Reasons for these discrepancies are discussed, as well as theoretical implications concerning the role that perceived social support for relationships plays in the prediction of relationship well-being and mental and physical health.
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