Berlin Social Support Scales (BSSS)

Author of Tool: 

Ralf Schwarzer & Ute Schulz

Key references: 

Schulz, U. & Schwarzer, R. (2003). Soziale Unterstützung bei der Krankheitsbewältigung. Die Berliner Social Support Skalen (BSSS) [Social support in coping with illness: The Berlin Social Support Scales (BSSS)]. Diagnostica, 49, 73-82.
See articles in English at: http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~health/support/social_support_public.htm

Primary use / Purpose: 

The multidimensional approach of measuring social support is a unique feature that distinguishes this inventory from other questionnaires. The 6 subscales of the BSSS (perceived, actually provided and received support, need for support, support seeking, protective buffering) measure both cognitive and behavioral aspects of social support.

Background: 

The Berlin Social Support Scales (BSSS, Schwarzer & Schulz, 2000) were developed based on theoretical considerations and reviews of established measurement instruments for social support.
All items were discussed by an expert panel and partly revised after a pilot study with cancer patients. Items of the received/provided support subscales referring to unfavorable support behavior of the partner were omitted from our study after patients expressed rejection of those statements.

The answering format is the same for all subscales: Patients rate their agreement with the statements on a four-point scale. Possible endorsements are strongly disagree (1), somewhat disagree (2), somewhat agree (3) and strongly agree (4). Negative items need to be reversed. Scale scores are obtained either by adding up item responses (sum scores) or by generating the scale mean score.

Three BSSS subscales, i.e., perceived support, received and provided support, respectively, allow for further distinction of different kinds of support. In some research contexts, a fine-grained analysis of various support types may be of great value. The perceived support subscale comprises items of emotional and instrumental support; adding up the respective items yields two discrete scores for each support type. Similarly, overall received and provided support scores can be split up by summarizing emotional, instrumental, and informational support item scores for each subscale separately.

Psychometrics: 

Reliability: Internal consistency for subscales in validation sample (cancer patients, N=457): Perceived Social Support (8 items): Cronbach’s alpha = .83; Received Social Support (general score, 11 items): Cronbach’s alpha = .83; Need for Support (4 items): Cronbach’s alpha = .63; Support Seeking (5 items): Cronbach’s alpha = .81; Protective Buffering (6 items): Cronbach’s alpha = .82.
Internal consistency for Provided Social Support (general score, 11 items) in partner sample (spouses only, n=175): Cronbach’s alpha = .75.
Validity: Validity has been demonstrated in several studies (cf. Schulz & Schwarzer, 2003; Schulz & Schwarzer, 2004).

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