The Role of Social Support on the Disclosure of Everyday Unpleasant Emotional Events

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Talking about unpleasant events has important implications for coping with distress, but the literature has not thoroughly addressed the role of social support on the decision to disclose these events. The authors hypothesized that perceptions of the availability of social support and satisfaction with support received regarding an event would be positively related to the disclosure of the event, and participants’ sex, emotional disclosure tendencies, depression symptoms, and global perceptions of support would moderate these relations. College students (N = 365) reported on 2,001 unpleasant emotional events that they personally experienced in the past week. Multilevel modeling analyses revealed that the perceived availability of support for an event predicted the degree of disclosure of that event, even while controlling for its intensity. Event disclosure predicted satisfaction with the support received for the event, controlling for event intensity and available support. This latter relation was moderated by the participants’ global perceptions of social support, such that the disclosure–satisfaction relation was stronger for individuals who perceived relatively less global social support. These findings suggest that characteristics of the social-support network ought to be considered as an important factor relevant to the decision to disclose everyday unpleasant events.


This article was originally published as Kahn, J. H., & Cantwell, K. E. (2017). The role of social support on the disclosure of everyday unpleasant emotional events. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 30(2), 152–165,