Selected Abstracts


Stress and Social Support - In Search of Optimal Matching

Cutrona, C. E. (1990) Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9, 3-14.

Theoretical and practical advantages are discussed of a model that specifies the type of social support that is most beneficial (i.e., most effective in preventing deleterious physical or mental health consequences) following different kinds of stressful life event. Prior attempts to specify such optimal combinations of stress and social support are reviewed, and a new optimal matching model is proposed. Issues that must be addressed in the validation of optimal stress-support models are discussed, and methodological suggestions for future research endeavors in this area are offered.



Social Support and Immune Function Among Spouses of Cancer Patients

Robert S. Baron, Carolyn E. Cutrona, Daniel Hicklin, Daniel W. Russell, and David M. Lubaroff

(1990) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 344-352.

This study investigated whether social support was related to immune function among spouses of cancer patients. Effects of depression and negative life events were examined as potential mediators. Results showed evidence of greater immunocompetence on 2 of 3 dynamic measures: natural killer cytotoxicity and proliferation response to phytohemaglutinin among spouses who reported high levels of social support. All six components of social support assessed by the Social Provisions Scale (Cutrona & Russell, 1987) were strongly related to these indices of immune function. No evidence was found for mediation by either life events or depression.



Nonpsychotic Postpartum Depression Among Adolescent Mothers

Beth R. Troutman and Caroly E. Cutrona

(1990) Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 69-78.

This study examined the extent to which childbearing increases vulnerability to clinical depression and depressive symptomatology among primiparous adolescent girls (ages 14 to 18). Childbearing Ss (n = 128) were assessed during pregnancy, 6 weeks postpartum, and 1 year postpartum. Matched nonchildbearing Ss (n = 114) were assessed at corresponding time points. Six weeks postpartum, 6% of the childbearing adolescents met Research Diagnostic Criteria for major depression and 20% for minor depression. These rates were not significantly different from those found for nonchildbearing Ss (4% major depression, 10% minor depression). However, higher rates of somatic symptoms of depression were found among the childbearing Ss than among the nonchildbearing Ss.



Contexual Determinants of the Perceived Supportiveness of Helping Behaviors

Carolyn E. Cutrona, B. Beth Cohen, and Surria Igram

(1990) Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 7, 553-562.

We tested the effect of contextual variables on the perceived supportiveness of help-intended behaviors. These variables included relationship closeness, spontaneity of support behavior, degree of correspondence between type of support desired and type obtained and gender of the help-provider. Subjects read descriptions of help-intended interactions, in which the contextual variables were systematically varied, then rated their helpfulness and supportiveness. Results showed significant effects for all contextual variables except gender of the support provider. Results suggest that not only the content of support-intended behaviors, but the context in which they occur are important determinants of perceived supportiveness.



Controllability of Stressful Events and Satisfaction With Spouse Support Behaviors

Carolyn E. Cutrona and Julie A. Suhr

(1992) Communications Research, 19, 154-174.

Among married couples, the effect of the controllability of stressful events was tested as a predictor of the type of social support communications provided and preferred. Sixty married individuals disclosed stressful events to their spouse. Controllability of the stress was rated by observers. The Social Support Behavior Code was used to assess the frequency with which each of five types of social support was provided by the spouse. Action-promoting support (information) was provided most frequently when the stressed person had high control over the event. Of the five types of support communications assessed, only information was evaluated differently in high- and low-controllable situations. Both controllability by the support recipient and controllability by his or her spouse were relevant to support evaluations. Results provide limited support for the optimal matching model proposed by Cutrona and Russell (Cutrona, 1990; Cutrona & Russell, 1990).



Perceived Parental Social Support and Academic Achievement: An Attachment Theory Perspective

Carolyn E. Cutrona, Valerie Cole, Nicholas Colangelo, Susan G. Assouline, and Daniel W. Russell

(1994) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 369-378.

The study tested to which parental social support predicted college grade point average among undergraduate students. A sample of 418 undergraduates completed the Social Provisions Scale-Parent Form (C. E. Cutrona, 1989) and measures of family conflict and achievement orientation. American College Testing Assessment Program college entrance exam scores (ACT; American College Testing Program, 1986) and grade point average were obtained from the university registrar. Parental social support, especially reassurance of worth, predicted college grade point average when controlling for academic aptitude (ACT scores), family achievement orientation, and family conflict. Support from parents, but not from friends or romantic partners, significantly predicted grade point average. Results are interpreted in the context of adult attachment theory.



Interpersonal Variables in the Prediction of Alcoholism Among Adoptees: Evidence for Gene-Environment Interactions

Carolyn E. Cutrona, Remi J. Cadoret, Julie A. Suhr, Chris C. Richards, Edward Troughton, Kathleen Schutte, and George Woodworth

(1994) Comprehensive Psychiatry, 35, 171-179.

The contributions of genetic and both positive and negative environmental factors were tested in the prediction of alcohol abuse/dependence among 300 adult adoptees. No direct effects for either genetic or environmental factors were significant in the prediction of adoptee alcohol abuse/dependence. However, among women, early-life family conflict and psychopathology in the adoptive family interacted with a biological background of alcoholism. Among women with at least one alcoholic biological parent, conflict or psychopathology in the adoptive family increased the probability of alcohol abuse and/or dependence. Among men, no significant interactions were found between a biological background of alcoholism and environmental variables. Results suggest a pattern of gene-environment interaction among women.



Employment Status, Social Support, and Life Satisfaction Among the Elderly

Juan A. Aquino, Daniel W. Russell, Carolyn E. Cutrona, and Elizabeth M. Altmaier

(1996) Journal of Counseling Psychology, 43, 480-489.

Relations among employment status, social support, and life satisfaction were examined in a sample of 292 community-living elderly as part of a larger investigation of the role of stressful life experiences and social support in the health of the elderly. Results of a path analysis suggested that the number of hours worked at a paying job, lower levels of depression, and greater perceived social support were directly related to higher levels of life satisfaction. Furthermore, social support mediated the effects of volunteer positions on life satisfaction. These findings are discussed in relation to previous research on vocational issues among the elderly. Limitations of this study are mentioned, and suggestions for future research are offered.



Loneliness and Nursing Home Admission Among the Rural Elderly Daniel W. Russell, Carolyn E. Cutrona and Arlene de la Mora

(in press) Psychology and Aging.

Tested the relation between loneliness and subsequent admission to a nursing home over a four year time period in a sample of approximately 3,000 rural elderly Iowans. Higher levels of loneliness were found to increase the likelihood of nursing home admission and to decrease the time until nursing home admission. The influence of extremely high loneliness on nursing home admission remained statistically significant after controlling for other variables, such as age, education, income, mental status, physical health, morale, and social contact, that were also predictive of nursing home admission. Several mechanisms are proposed to explain the link between extreme loneliness and nursing home admission. These include loneliness as a precipitant of declines in mental and physical health and nursing home placement as a strategy to gain social contact with others. Implications for preventative interventions are discussed.