Introduction: There is increasing awareness of the contribution of perceived social support (PSS) to emotional and physical well-being. Numerous scales measuring PSS have been developed, including the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS). The psychometric properties of the MSPSS have been demonstrated in diverse samples, although its reproducibility in the South African youth has not yet been investigated.
Methods: This study aimed to investigate the psychometric properties of the MSPSS in the South African youth using confirmatory factor analysis. The relationship of PSS to depressive and anxiety symptoms, as well as the effects of sex and ethnicity, was investigated. Participants completed a battery of self-report measures, including the MSPSS, Beck Depression Inventory, and the Child Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist on a single occasion. Confirmatory factor analysis was performed to validate the a priori factor structure of the MSPSS. In addition, Cronbach alpha coefficients and intercorrelations (for clinical variables) were calculated. A missing value analysis was performed to assess the influence of missing data on our findings.
Results: Data are reported for 502 youth (11.3-23.5 years). The 3-factor structure of the MSPSS (significant other, family, and friends) fitted the data well. The MSPSS showed good internal consistency. Perceived social support was also positively correlated with resilience and negatively correlated with depression, exposure to community violence, and other potentially life-threatening traumas. Females and youth of white or mixed race reported significantly higher levels of PSS than males and black youth, respectively.
Conclusions: The MSPSS is a psychometrically sound instrument that can be applied to South African youth.