What specifically does social support provide to the person? To answer this question, researchers have tried to classify various types of support. These classifications suggest that there are five basic types of social support.
1. Emotional support involves the expression of empathy, caring, and concern toward the person. It provides the person with a sense of comfort, reassurance, belongingness, and being loved in times of stress. We saw earlier how Bob’s family gave him emotional support after the death of his wife.
2. Esteem support occurs through people’s expression of positive regard for the person, encouragement or agreement with the individual’s ideas or feelings, and positive comparison of the person with others, such as people who are less able or worse off. This kind of support serves to build the individual’s feeling of self- worth, competence, and being valued. Esteem support is especially useful during the appraisal of stress, such as when the person assesses whether the demands exceed his or her personal resources.
3. Tangible or instrumental support involves direct assistance, as when people give or lend the person money or help out with chores in times of stress. Bob’s family helped with childcare, for example, which reduced the demands on his time and finances.
4. Informational support includes giving advice, directions, suggestions, or feedback about how the person is doing. For example, a person who is ill might get information from family or a physician on how to treat the illness. Or someone who is faced with a very difficult decision on the job might receive suggestions or feedback about his or her ideas from coworkers.
5. Network support provides a feeling of membership in a group of people who share interests and social activities.