Social support and health in adolescence: A factor analytical study

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Objectives. This study aimed to investigate whether there are age-specific characteristics and gender differences in which dimensions of social support are important correlates of health in an adolescent population. Design. Factor analysis was conducted to investigate the types of social support and t tests to investigate gender differences between the means of support factors and health variables of boys and girls; correlation coefficients were calculated to test the relationships between social support and health-related variables. Methods. The Inventory of Socially Supportive Behaviors (ISSB) was designed to assess received social support. The following health-related variables were applied: psychological well-being, the frequency of common psychosomatic symptoms, self-perceived health, acute and chronic illness episodes. Data were collected among secondary school students (N = 1039) in Szeged, southern Hungary. Results. Factor analysis of the received social support items gave five factors: emotional support, informational support, task-oriented guidance, rational-material support and practical support. Significant but small correlations mere detected between the social support factors and health-related variables. While emotional and informational support mere more supportive factors for health among girls, rational-material support proved to be a more influential factor among boys. Moreover, task-oriented guidance showed a significant non-supportive relationship with the frequency of psychosomatic symptoms among boys. Conclusions. There are characteristics specific to adolescence in the factor structure of the ISSB and the support-health interactions. Future research should focus more on the negative effects of some aspects of social support to identify the special characteristics of the support systems in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

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