A new look at social support: a theoretical perspective on thriving through relationships

Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2015 May;19(2):113-47. doi: 10.1177/1088868314544222. Epub 2014 Aug 14.


Close and caring relationships are undeniably linked to health and well-being at all stages in the life span. Yet the specific pathways through which close relationships promote optimal well-being are not well understood. In this article, we present a model of thriving through relationships to provide a theoretical foundation for identifying the specific interpersonal processes that underlie the effects of close relationships on thriving. This model highlights two life contexts through which people may potentially thrive (coping successfully with life's adversities and actively pursuing life opportunities for growth and development), it proposes two relational support functions that are fundamental to the experience of thriving in each life context, and it identifies mediators through which relational support is likely to have long-term effects on thriving. This perspective highlights the need for researchers to take a new look at social support by conceptualizing it as an interpersonal process with a focus on thriving.

Keywords: attachment; growth; relational catalyst; relationships; resilience; safe haven; secure base; social support; source of strength; thriving.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Mental Health*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Object Attachment
  • Psychological Theory
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Social Support*