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Do expectancies influence choice of help-giver? : an exploratory examination of adolescents’ help-seeking from mothers, fathers, and friends Sullivan, Kelli

Abstract

Of the research examining adolescent help-seeking in the family and peer context, there have been several consistent findings showing that the gender of the adolescent, age of the adolescent, and the specific topic of the problem all influence an adolescent's choice of informal help-giver. The purpose of this present study was to unite the adolescent helpseeking literature regarding gender, age, and specific problem type (e.g., Papini, Farmer, Clark, Micka, & Barnett, 1990; Schonert-Reichl & Muller, 1996; Seiffge-Krenke, 1995) with that of expected quality of responses by mother, father, and friend to better understand what criteria an adolescent uses when choosing a parent or friend as a potential help-giver. A sample of 89 adolescents in grades 8 and 11 answered questions in relation to 4 different scenarios. Findings indicate that adolescents are most likely to choose friends to help with interpersonal problems and most likely to select mothers to help with health and school problems. Expectations of expertise are important in selecting a mother or father as a potential help-giver while expectations of nurturance are influential in choosing a friend as a help-giver. Furthermore, when dealing with a stressful problem, early adolescents have higher expectations that their mothers will know how to help them, while girls have higher expectations that their friends will be supportive. Results are discussed in terms of adolescent help-seeking as having a dual function, that of a coping response and relationship development.

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