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Social Support Moderates the Impact of Pain-Related Threat on Avoidance Behavior
Korean J Stress Res 2019;27:125-131
Published online March 31, 2019
© 2019 Korean Society of Stress Medicine.

Ubin Yi , Sungkun Cho

Department of Psychology, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, Korea
Correspondence to: Sungkun Cho Department of Psychology, Chungnam National University, 99 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 34134, Korea Tel: +82-42-821-6366 Fax: +82-42-823-9448 E-mail:
Received January 31, 2019; Revised March 6, 2019; Accepted March 7, 2019.
Articles published in stress are open-access, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


According to the fear-avoidance model, pain becomes chronic when it is related to fear and avoidance behavior. When a pain-related threat occurs, humans instinctively use avoidance behavior strategies. However, the support of significant others is likely to inhibit avoidance behavior even with the same pain-related threat stimulus. Thus, in this study, we examined the effects of pain-related threats and social support of romantic partner on avoidance behavior inhibition.


Participants consisted of 80 pairs of healthy undergraduate couples, and were randomly assigned to one of four group conditions in a 2×2 factorial design, with threat level (high/low) and social support (presence/absence) as factors.


The results of the experiment indicated a significant interaction between threat level and social support. Specifically, in the high-threat condition, when social support was provided, task delay time was significantly shorter than when no social support was provided. On the other hand, in the low-threat condition, the time delay difference between high- and low- social support group was not significant. Moreover, social support did not affect fear reduction.


These results indicate that avoidance behaviors, which are instinctive responses to pain, can be inhibited by social support. This result would enhance understanding of the factors that have not been described in the fear-avoidance model in the pain-chronicization process, and will help expand and improve the model. We also discuss possible limitations of the study and scope for further studies.

Keywords : Fear-avoidance model, Pain-related threat, Social support, Avoidance behavior

June 2019, 27 (2)

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