Research Lab

Social Support for Children and Adolescents

Social Support is a large and complex construct with many different aspects which contribute to the term. Research has displayed the critical role that social support serves in the lives of children and adolescents and it has consistently been linked to outcomes in many areas such as, social functioning and academic achievement. While social support is such a large construct, some researchers (Tardy, 1985) have broken it down into specific dimensions which include:

  • Direction (is support given, or received)
  • Disposition (availability of support- what support someone has access to or has used)
  • Content (what type of support is received and who is giving the support)
  • Evaluation (Is this person satisfied with the support received)
  • Network (people in the individuals social network/group)

Dr. Malecki and Dr. Demaray do collaborative research in the area of social support and have focused their research on breaking it down into a more comprehensive and tangible entity, similarly to the one just described. They focus their particular research on the different aspects or types of social support, rather than looking at social support as a global construct.

Dr. Malecki and Dr. Demaray define Social Support as “an individual’s perceptions of general support or specific supportive behaviors (available or enacted upon) from people in their social network, which enhances their functioning and/or may buffer them from adverse outcomes. General support or specific supportive behaviors are broadly defined and include emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal support” (CASSS, 2000).

The Social Support lab works with several elementary and middle schools in the area, collecting data regarding the social support that children and adolescents perceive from the people in their lives, such as teachers, parents, siblings, and friends. From this data, they examine how that support is related to outcomes including behavior, social-emotional factors and academic performance. They also examine how social support serves as a moderator to negative outcomes, such as those associated with bullying and peer victimization.

Their research has led to the creation of the Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale (CASSS):

Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale:

  • A reliable tool used to assess the perceived social support of children and adolescents in grades 3-12.
  • This 60 item measure is divided into five subscales, which divide social support by network (parent, teacher, friend, classmate and school)
  • Students are asked to read each statement and record on a scale whether they believe that they receive that support, and how important that support is to them.
  • The scale also analyzes the types of support
    • Emotional (love, trust, empathy)
    • Informational (advice)
    • Appraisal (offering evaluative feedback)
    • Instrumental (Helping behaviors)
  • The creation of the CASSS allows researchers, school psychologists and educators to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a student's social support and allows them to avoid looking at social support as an umbrella term for a broad and complex construct.

Malecki, C. K., Demaray, M. K., & Elliott, S. N. (2000). The Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale. Northern Illinois University: DeKalb, IL.

Tardy, C. (1985). Social support measurement. America Journal of Community Psychology, 13(2), 187-202.