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"I am not a bad friend for having boundaries": exploring the need for and creation of support boundaries in friendships




Johnson, Kylie J., author
Faw, Meara, advisor
Parks, Elizabeth, committee member
Quirk, Kelley, committee member

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Although research effectively depicts the benefits of social support and support recipient experiences, less scholarship explores discrepancies and challenges in supportive communication. This research study investigates support provider experiences and offers new insight for challenges that might arise in supportive contexts. Two primary goals motivated this research: understanding what conditions influence providers' need for support boundaries and what communicative strategies are utilized to create them. Qualitative research methods were utilized, and 22 semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted. Analysis of 865 pages of texts illustrates how various conditions, both personal and relational, drove providers to need support boundaries. Participants described four primary themes to explain their need for support boundaries: ineffective involvement, relational transgressions, protecting the self, and network negotiations. Various sub-themes were identified, and all participants detailed numerous conditions that contributed to their need for support boundaries. Participants utilized three central strategies to enact support boundaries with their friends: direct communication, indirect communication, and collaborative communication. The findings depict existing discrepancies between support provider and recipient needs, and that boundary creation, when enacted skillfully, is an effective way to protect themselves and the relationship. Ultimately, this exploratory study emphasizes the importance of support boundaries and positions boundary creation in supportive contexts as an enriched area for further investigation.


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