Donna Nelson, Ph.D.




College of Arts and Sciences


This research focuses on predictors of social support seeking in response to stress, and the link between well-being and different modes of support seeking. The main research questions focused on the type of venue preferred for provision of support (online or face to face), how different person-level variables influence support seeking behaviors, how different types of stressors influence the choice of venue for support seeking, and how different types of support seeking relate to happiness. Survey data was collected through social media and university classes via Qualtrics. A paired-samples t-test was conducted to compare means of overall online social support seeking and face to face social support seeking. There was a significant difference in the scores for overall online support seeking (M=1.65, SD=.74) and overall face to face support seeking (M=3.38, SD=1.22) conditions; t(123)=-14.99, p < 0.005, revealing that face to face support seeking was more popular. Next, a three-stage hierarchical regression demonstrated that age was negatively associated with support seeking in general, F (1,124) = -26.14, p < .001. On the other hand, extraversion, F (6,119) = 7.07, p < .001, and social network size, F (7,118) = 7.98, p < .001, predicted more frequent face to face support seeking. A four-stage hierarchical regression demonstrated that face to face support seeking promoted greater happiness, F (8,108) = 9.42, p < .001, while online support seeking did not. Finally, a one-way repeated measure ANOVA was conducted to determine if stress type predicted the preferred mode of support seeking (online or face-to-face). These tests revealed that there was a significant effect of stressor type on venue chosen, F(8,108) = 9.42, p = .001. Individuals were more likely to discuss work and school stress in face to face support seeking (M= 3.72) and less likely to discuss friend/roommate stress in online support seeking (M=1.5) Our findings contribute to the limited literature exploring social support seeking behaviors and the factors that influence these behaviors. Future plans for this research include exploring reasons people may prefer different support venues, such as the perceived costs or benefits of seeking help face to face or online, as well as the perceived effectiveness of different modes of support.