Social Support

A series of mixed-methods studies were conducted to define concepts and develop measures of social support relevant to ethnic minority older adults.

Conceptual Frameworks

 Drs. Sabrina Wong and Grace Yoo developed a conceptual framework of social support relevant to older Korean and Chinese immigrants using qualitative methods (Wong et al., 2005). The framework reflects several differences from more traditional frameworks in terms of the domains and the definitions of each domain.


Cultural differences


  • Financial support from adult children and social security
  • Material support such as carrying groceries, getting a ride Information/advice


  • Practical advice for common and impersonal need, e.g., how to choose a doctor, social security benefit information
  • Kept personal and family needs to themselves (e.g., advice for family conflict)


  • Seldom sought support as they kept their negative feelings to themselves


  • Sharing activities with others
  • Served as a substitute for direct emotional support, a distraction from negative emotions

Language support

  • Help interpreting when out in public, especially for Korean Americans because fewer people speak Korean

Citation: Wong ST, Yoo GJ, Stewart AL. Examining the types of social support and the actual sources of support in older Chinese and Korean immigrants. Int J Aging Hum Dev. 2005;61(2):105-21. PMID:16161288.

The authors also conducted an in-depth analysis of older Chinese and Korean immigrants to explore the process of becoming bicultural and changing expectations of their adult children to meet social support needs (Wong et al., 2006).

Citation: Wong ST, Yoo GJ, Stewart AL. The changing meaning of family support among older Chinese and Korean immigrants. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2006;61(1):S4-9. PMID:16399949.

Initial Social Support Survey (Version1):

Because no available social support measure adequately reflected the issues raised in the qualitative research, the authors developed a new social support survey to reflect the conceptual framework, adapted from several existing instruments and including newly written items. A 27-item pilot survey was fielded in a sample of 200 older Koreans and Chinese using exploratory factor analytic (EFA) techniques. The final 22-item survey reflected four domains: language (4 items); information/advice (7 items); financial (4 items); and emotional/companionship (7 items). The other tangible support items were dropped based on item analysis (high levels of missing data, respondents reported having difficulty interpreting the questions). To explore construct validity, we examined the association between social support and psychological well-being, finding that older Chinese and Koreans’ psychological well-being may be negatively affected when they live with their adult children, while more emotional/companionship support resulted in better psychological well-being.

Citation: Wong ST, Yoo GJ, Stewart AL. An empirical evaluation of social support and psychological well-being in older Chinese and Korean immigrants. Ethn Health. 2007 Jan;12(1):43-67. PMID:17132584

Social Support Survey Meeting Invariance Criteria (Version 2):

We revised slightly the original 27-item survey for administration in a new study. For this survey, we omitted the Language Support scale but included again the 7 tangible support items. Some items were slightly rewritten, and a few were dropped. The new 22-item pilot survey was administered in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin to a sample of 1,137 Chinese, African American, Latina, and white women age 50 and older. Fifteen items representing four factors met all criteria of multitrait scaling. An 8-item subset assessing the same four dimensions demonstrated factorial invariance across four race/ethnic/language groups. The published article describes all 22 items, the 15 meeting multitrait scaling criteria, and the 8 meeting invariance criteria (Table 2).

Citation: Wong ST, Nordstokke D, Gregorich S, Pérez-Stable EJ. Measurement of social support across women from four ethnic groups: evidence of factorial invariance. J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2010;25(1):45-58. PMCID: PMC2836242

The eight items are summarized in English, Spanish, and Chinese including the instructions and response choices.