Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Social networks and support in long-term psychiatric patients

C. Maxine Cresswella1, Liz Kuipersa1 c1 and M. J. Powera1

a1 Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, London


This paper describes quantitative and qualitative aspects of social support in a sample of 40 long-term schizophrenic day patients attending a rehabilitation unit. The influence of symptomatology and experience of life stressors on network and support characteristics was also investigated. The primary networks of these patients were found to be small, comprising on average 7 members, of whom only 3 were seen regularly. Despite this, subjects rated their perceived support as adequate. The secondary networks were of the order of 32. It emerged that greater prevalence of negative symptoms was significantly associated with lower ideal levels of support and this group of patients was significantly less likely to seek support in the event of a life stressor. This may be a protective mechanism to insulate the person from the effects of stressful relationships but at the same time means that they are isolated from potential supports. The clinical implications are discussed in terms of offering optimum support for this marginalized group.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Liz Kuipers, Clinical Psychology Department, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF.