Meanings, beliefs, and well-being: a qualitative study of social support among African American elders
Jones, Althea Taylor
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This study was designed to examine the concept of social support from the perspective of 30 African American elders, aged 70 years and above, with an age range of 70 to 99. Guided by the conceptual framework of stress and coping, this research examined the personal beliefs, as well as past experiences that motivate use of social support; when, how, from whom, and under what circumstances support is requested (or offered); and evaluations of the positive and negative outcomes of supportive interactions. The following research questions guided this study: (a) Whom do African American elders name in their most important network of supportive others and what meanings do they attach to the support? (b) What beliefs motivate and define African American elders' involvement in a social support network? and (c) How do African American elders evaluate the consequences of their supportive interactions? Qualitative in-depth interviewing was the method of data collection. Findings from this study showed that the African American elder informants were embedded in supportive networks, deeply devoted to family, friends and other committed partnerships, had strong religious and family ties, and had resiliency relative to the life stage of older adulthood. The foundation of their supportive interactions was based on their belief systems as well as their desire to reciprocate support. These informants were atypical by education and occupation. Varied coping resources emerged from the study including interdependence, spiritual beliefs, family philosophy, concern for others and self-protection.
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