A Longitudinal Person-Centered Perspective on Youth Social Support: Relations With Psychological Wellbeing

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Abstract

Past research suggests that perceived social support from parents, teachers, and peers are all positively associated with wellbeing during adolescence. However, little longitudinal research has examined the implications of distinctive combinations of social support for developing adolescents. To address this limitation, we measured multiple dimensions of social support, psychological ill-health, and wellbeing in a sample of 2034 Australian adolescents (Mage = 13.7; 49.6% male) measured in Grades 8 and 11. Latent transition analyses identified a 6-profile solution for both waves of data, and revealed substantial inequality in perceived social support. Two “socially rich” profiles corresponded to 7% of the sample and had high social support (>1SD above sample mean) from at least two sources. (Fully Integrated; Parent and Peer Supported). In contrast, 25% of the sample was “socially poor,” having support that was between −.65 to −.86 SD below the sample mean for all 3 sources (Isolated profile). None of the other profiles (Peer Supported; Moderately Supported; Weakly Supported) had levels of support below −.37 SD from any source. Furthermore, almost all wellbeing problems were concentrated in the Isolated Profile, with negative effects more pronounced in Grade 11 than Grade 8. Despite feeling low parent and teacher support, adolescents in the Peer Supported profile felt strong peer support and average to above-average levels of wellbeing in Grades 8 and 11. However, they also had an 81% chance of making a negative transition to either the Isolated or Weakly Supported profiles in Grade 11.

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