Supporting the Supporter: Social Support, Stress, and Well-being among Caregivers of Children with Severe Disabilities
Faw, Meara Helen
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The social, economic, and physical costs associated with providing long-term care for a person with disabilities can be debilitating. Caregivers frequently experience burnout, emotional distress, and significant health ailments as a result of their caregiving duties. Social support can be a key resource to combat these negative effects. Despite extensive research underscoring the importance of perceived support on health and well-being, however, scholars continue to explore the specific physiological mechanisms for how support influences health. In addition, much of support research focuses on perceived support rather than actual supportive interactions and ignores the fact that support varies greatly in its quality and appropriateness. Much also remains unknown about the short-term effects of providing support for the friends and family members who support caregivers. This study addresses these questions in a specific context by looking at the effects of supportive interactions between parents of children with disabilities and members of their supportive network. This study explores how support and its quality influence the physiological stress responses of both the support receiver (a caregiving parent of a child with disabilities) and the support provider (a network member of the parent). It also outlines the literature surrounding social support and its connections with health and well-being generally before exploring several hypotheses and research questions investigating how supportive interactions affect relational and physiological health outcomes for both interactants in this context. The results and implications of this study are then discussed, outlining specific recommendations for future research.
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