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Stress and Support


The social body and social support

Some research indicates that individuals may not be aware of their situation as stressful until having to readjust their coping strategies. Saying it may not be particular stress inducing situations, but the generalised level of stress existing within the social environment of every day life which causes most strain (Lauer, 1974; Olsen, 1993; Beehr, 1995).

These observations echo Durkheims Anomie Theory which “refers to that feeling of isolation which is caused by inability to believe in, or to live up to, the values of society” (Eriksen, 2001:62).

Helman (2001) states that in a symbolic sense the individual has an individual and a social body self. The social body enables the individual to acquire the skills necessary for participation within a socio-cultural group, such that the social body “provides each person with a framework for perceiving and interpreting physical and psychological experiences” (2001:14). Here the relationship between the person and environment indicates a continual feedback occurring between the two; Pearlin (1989) also highlights this by identifying that “the multiple sectors of people’s lives are interrelated such that disruptions in one sector are likely to cause disruptions in others” (1989:247).

When attempting to integrate into an unknown environment, Berkman et al (2000) highlight Bowlby’s Attachment Theory which identifies the need of the social body to feel safely attached to others while exploring surroundings, thus forming lasting social bonds and attachments.

It is the study of social support in cultural context, identified by Jacobson in 1987, which provides “a ‘window’ into the ‘structures of meaning’ that constitute a culture” (1987:58).

However, more recently Wainwright & Calnun (2002) continue to feel that accounts of work stress in particular rarely “examines the individuals location in a broader web of social, economic and cultural relations” (2002:81).

Social bonds, social integration and group relations are identified as important concepts regarding better understanding of how these relationships affect health and well-being (Turner, 1981; House, 1987; House et al, 1988).

Deleterious effects of stress are thought to be lessened by social support. Social support aids in redressing the balance between needs and resources by altering the consequences of failure to meet demand through the interaction of shared coping behaviours within intimate confiding relationships.

These relationships reduce stress by promoting social solidarity which helps bolster self esteem, giving a sense of certainty and purpose to individual social identity.


Bibliography and Further Reading:

Spradley J.P. & M. Phillips (Jun 1972) Culture and Stress: A Quantitative Analysis American Anthropologist,New Series, Vol. 74, No. 3, 518-529

Thoits P.A. (Jun., 1982). Conceptual, Methodological, and Theoretical Problems in Studying Social Support as a Buffer against Life Stress. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, Vol. 23, No. 2, 145-159

Wainwright D. & M. Calnan (2002) Work stress: the making of a modern pandemic. Buckingham: OUP

Brown D.E. (Mar., 1981), General Stress in Anthropological Fieldwork. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 83, No. 1, 74-92

Jacobson D.E. (Sept., 1986) Types and Timing of Social Support Journal of Health and Social Behaviour Vol. 27, no. 3, 250-264

Sutherland V.J. & C.L. Cooper (1990) Understanding Stress: a psychological perspective for health professionals London: Chapman and Hall

Olsen D. (Jul.-Aug., 1993) Work Satisfaction and Stress in the First and Third Year of Academic AppointmentJournal of Higher Education, Vol. 64, No. 4, 453-471

Thompson C.J., & E.L. Dey. (May-Jun., 1998) Pushed to the margins: Sources of stress for African American College and University Faculty  The Journal of Higher Education Vol.69, No. 3, 324-345

Pearlin L.I. (Sept., 1989) The Sociological Study of Stress Journal of Health and Behaviour Vol. 30, No. 3, 241-256

Beehr T.A. (1995). Psychological Stress in the Workplace. London: Routledge

Goodwyn A. (1997) Developing English Teachers: The Role of mentorship in a Reflective Profession. Buckingham; Philadelphia: OUP

Chapman P.C. (Oct 1969) Stress in Political Theory. Ethics Vol. 80, No.1, 38-49

Cox T. (1978) Stress. London: Macmillan

Lauer R.H. (Jun., 1974) Rate of Change and Stress: A test of the “Future Shock” Thesis. Social Forces, Vol. 52, No. 4, 510-516

Eriksen T.H. (2001). Small Places, Large Issues, an Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology 2ndEdition, London: Stirling

Helman C. (2001) Culture Health and Illness, 4th edition. London: Arnold

Berkman L.F., T. Glass, I. Brissette & T.E.Seeman (2000) From Social Integration to Health: Durkheim in the New Millennium Social Science & Medicine Vol.51, 843-857

Turner R.J. (1981). Social Support as a Contingency in Psychological Well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour Vol. 22, (December):357-367

House J.S. (winter, 1987) Social Support and Social Structure Sociological Forum Vol. 2, No. 1, 135-146

House J.S., D. Umberson & K.R. Landis (1988) Structures and Processes of Social Support Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 14, 293-318


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