Helpfulness of selected support gestures after marital separation as a function of interpersonal orientation

Susan Kathryn Cline-McGroarty, University of Pennsylvania


This study compared the rated helpfulness of seven support gestures, based on the McGroarty Model of Support. Three of the vignettes, Social Support, Tangible Help and Advice Giving reflected typical support gestures and were based on pilot interviews with divorcing men and women. The other four vignettes, also derived from the pilots, were shaped by mainstream therapeutic approaches: Cognitive Reframing, Thought Stopping, Dynamic Support, and Active Listening. An actress presented the scripts as if she were engaging in a dialogue with the participants.^ A sample of 97, 22 separated and divorced men and 77 women rated the minute long vignettes. The typical respondent was a middle aged (40-49), white, middle class female who had been married for almost 14 years prior to the separation.^ The relationship between interpersonal orientation and ratings of the vignettes was assessed using Fundamental Interpersonal Relationships Orientations-Behavior (FIRO-B). FIRO-B assesses Wanted and Expressed behavior in the areas of Inclusion, Affection and Control. Applied to this group, FIRO-B reliability indices obtained from this work corroborated those published in the Manual.^ The relationship between demographic variables such as age, gender, length of marriage, time since separation, and initiation of separation and rated helpfulness of each of the seven vignettes was investigated using stepwise multiple regression, correlations and analysis of variance.^ Support from friends following Rogerian (Rogers, 1961) conditions (Active Listening) was considered extremely helpful. However, support attempts which modeled other types of therapy were generally not that helpful. Advice Giving was the least helpful.^ For this group of subjects perceived helpfulness of support was largely independent of self-reported interpersonal characteristics--Wanted and Expressed Inclusion, Affection and Control. The timing of support interventions, and the maturity and gender of the recipient may actually be a more critical variables than interpersonal characteristics.^ Findings were supplemented by case studies.^ It was concluded that the popularity of the Active Listening vignette may reflect the strong need of many separating people to recount their experience. The role of empathy and other nonspecific factors was postulated to be an important factor in ratings of the helpfulness of the vignettes. ^

Subject Area

Social psychology|Social work|School counseling

Recommended Citation

Cline-McGroarty, Susan Kathryn, "Helpfulness of selected support gestures after marital separation as a function of interpersonal orientation" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9321373.