A clear definition of what social support is has not been developed. The definition is more complex and connects different studies from many theorists. The first study of social support was conducted in the 1970's. However, supportive behavior was already examined in a study as early as 1942. No matter what theory we look at, social support always includes relationships and interactions among people.
There are six dynamics developed by Weiss to help us better understand the concept. The first dynamic is “attachment or sense of emotional closeness” and is provided by partners in life such as husbands/wives or lovers might be here as well. The second one is “social integration or a sense of belonging to a group of people with common interests”. This dynamic, of course, describe the group of friends people belong to. The thrid one is “reassurance of worth or the acknowledgment of one's competence and skills” and is given by coworkers. The fourth one is “reliable alliance or self-assurance that one can count on others for assistance under any circumstances”. Family members account for this dynamic. The fifth one is “guidance, advice, and information”. Teachers, any kind of mentors, and also parents can be listed as providers for this dynamic. Finally, children give “Nurturance or the sense of responsibility for the well-being of another”. Kahn later looked into the key components of supportive transactions and said they should include at least three elements. These three were affect (positive feelings), affirmation, and aid (symbolic or material).
There are four types of social support. Emotional support consists of feelings of love and trust. (Emotional socializing) Best example is when people can openly communicate and show their concerns for one another. Instrumental support consists of intangible assets/resources such as giving money for someone or helping someone finishing his or her job. (Material aid) Informational support is providing information to someone. (Guidance) Appraisal support is providing detailed feedback. (Communication of expectations). The majority of the studies, however, focus only on the two major type of support; emotional support and instrumental support.
Every type of social support can be applied successfully depending on the situation. In case of people who just got fired or lost one of their relatives, emotional support is the best tool someone can use to help the given person to get through rough times. Instrumental support can be provided by coworkers to help each other out at the workplace so they get the job done faster or with the intend to decrease one' heavy workload. Tourists who visit a city where they have never been need informational support. Engineers who assemble a car for the first time want to hear feedback from test drivers what should be modified on the concept.
There is a significant, negative relationship between stress and social support. Low level of social support will lead to high lever of stress and it is also associated with problematic behavior mainly in the early stage of life and lower life satisfaction later. High level of social support, on the other hand, helps people to manage stressful situations and to cope with stressors thus reducing their harmful effects.
Prag, Patrick W. “Stress, Burnout, and Social Support: A Review and Call for Research.” Air Medical Journal. Volume 22. Issue 5. September–October 2003. Pages 18-22.
Baqutayan, Shadiya. "Stress and social support." Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine Jan.-June 2011: 29. Health Reference Center Academic.
Christine, Kerres Malecki, and Kilpatrick Demaray Michelle. "What Type of Support do they Need? Investigating Student Adjustment as Related to Emotional, Informational, Appraisal, and Instrumental Support." School Psychology Quarterly 18.3 (2003): 231-52.