The Effect of Under- and Over-Benefited Support Gaps on Hurt Feelings, Esteem, and Relationships

Rachel M. McLaren, Andrew C. High

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Although the supportive communication people receive from others during stressful times can be helpful, it can also result in negative outcomes. One explanation for these different effects might be how closely the support people receive matches their desires. This study extends optimal matching theory and examines how the discrepancy between the support people want and what they receive (called support gaps) corresponds with hurt feelings, perceived negative relational consequences, and esteem improvement. People can either receive less support than the desire (i.e., be under-benefited) or receive more support than they desire (i.e., be over-benefited), and these different types of support gaps produce distinct patterns of results. Specifically, action-facilitating support, which includes informational and tangible support, and nurturant support, which includes emotional, esteem, and network support, were studied. Results showed that being over-benefited in informational support and being under-benefited in emotional and esteem support is hurtful, and hurt corresponded with negative relational consequences and reduced esteem improvement. Implications for research on support gaps and hurt feelings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-810
Number of pages26
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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