Math 7-9

Systems Change
Math 7-9 > Factors > Social Supports

Social Supports

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Social Supports are the perception and presence of a support network available to help a student if needed. People are social creatures, and our happiness is in part based on having supportive friends and family. The power of Social Supports extends to learning: a student's perception of the strength of the support they have, even if they do not end up calling upon their supports, is a key contributor to their academic success, including learning math.

Main Ideas

Key sources of Social Supports include parents, friends, classmates, teachers, and other school resources and staff. These sources offer different types of support to a student:

  • Emotional support by caring for and showing compassion to the student;
  • Appraisal support by providing the student with helpful feedback;
  • Instrumental support by contributing resources such as time and money; and
  • Information support by providing information and advice.

Social Supports can be beneficial even when students do not take advantage of the support. Rather, it is important that students perceive that these Social Supports are available to them. Adolescents can go through periods of greater conflicts with their parents, resulting in a decline in reported closeness, though parent relationships are still critical to emotional health. In contrast, the influence of peer and romantic relationships increases during this time.

Unfortunately, children can experience traumatic events that erode their actual and/or perceived Social Supports.

  • Situations that can erode their parent/guardian Social Supports include having parents/guardians who divorce or separate, pass away, go to jail, experience problems with substance abuse, or have a significant mental illness.
  • Situations that can erode their friend and classmate Social Supports include being a victim of bullying, including cyberbullying, and moving to a new school.

Building positive relationships with other sources of Social Supports, such as with a teacher or family friend, can diminish the effects of this kind of trauma (e.g., by mitigating the negative effects of stress hormones).

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