First Advisor

David L. Morgan

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies


Widows, Social networks



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vi, 63 p.)


One of the important issues in research on social support has been the relationship between received support and perceptions of support. While most research has been unable to discover a strong link between these two constructs, three theories have emerged in the literature to explain how such a link might be discovered. One theory states that it is important to study support in the context of a stressful life event. Another suggests that when studying social support it is important to make distinctions between positive and negative interactions. A third approach focuses on specificity issues, predicting that it is important to specify the source, type and timing of support. This study is concerned with widowhood and satisfaction with support. It addresses the questions present in the social support literature by focusing on five hypotheses. The first hypothesis predicts that while there will be more reported support than problems, the effects of the problems will be greater than the effects of the support. The second hypothesis anticipates a stronger link between received and perceived support than other studies have indicated. This is because this study is focusing on a widowhood as a stressful life event and is also differentiating between positive and negative interactions. The third, fourth and fifth hypotheses focus on issues of specificity. The third hypothesis predicts that there will be a difference in satisfaction with family and non-family support. The fourth hypothesis looks at types of support and suggests that different forms of support and problems will affect satisfaction with family differently than satisfaction with non-family. The fifth hypothesis adds the temporal component, anticipating that satisfaction with different types of support and problems from family and non-family will vary over time. Data for this study comes from the first year of a three year longitudinal research project conducted by the Institute on Aging at Portland State University. The sample consists of widows who live in the metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon. Potential respondents were contacted if their names appeared as the surviving spouse on a sample of death certificates. Widows were first contacted by mail, and if they indicated interest they were contacted later by phone. Women who were interested and eligible to participate were divided into three groups depending on length of time widowed. All the data used in this study is the result of one and a half hour long face-to-face interviews with each of the respondents. Received support was measured by asking respondents detailed questions about the kinds of help and problems they received from different network members. Perceived support was measured on a seven point scale which rated how satisfied widows were with their family and their non-family networks. Other important variables have to do with length of time widowed, size of networks, and frequency of contact with family and non-family network members. Despite the overall prediction, that the amounts of support received will affect a person's satisfaction with support, the data only partially supported the five hypotheses. All the links between support, problems and satisfaction were in the non-family network. The only time that received support seemed to be significant was when examining non-family instrumental support among the most recent widows. Problematic interactions had increasingly stronger effects on satisfaction as the amount of time widowed increased.


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