My research interests lie at the intersection of relationships, and technology, focusing in particular on how social support impacts health and well-being. In these areas, I integrate individual-level considerations, as well as larger structural factors, into more specific questions about relationships and psychosocial well-being. I also devise new and novel ways of assessing commonly-studied constructs using new media.

Stress and Social Support

One theme in my research is how people cope with stressful life events, particularly in the context of social interaction and social support. I first began studying stress in the context of sexual assault and social factors impacting how victims view themselves and the assault. This line of research led to my work with Stacey Williams (e.g., Deitz, Williams, Rife, & Cantrell, 2013; Rife & Williams, under revision), which focuses on how victims of sexual assault seek support in the face of the social stigma associated with sexual victimization. Over the past three years, my interests have shifted toward a more general focus on the relationship between stress and social support.

Much has been written about the stress/social support relationship. However, most of this research has focused on the availability of support. In contrast, the seeking of social support in response to stress has received comparatively little attention. Additionally, research on social support has focused primarily on aggregate levels of perceived and received support, while ignoring day-to-day variations and how people seek support in the face of stress. With my dissertation, I propose and test a new model of stress and support seeking that focuses on how individual-level variables (i.e., sex-role orientation, extraversion, rejection sensitivity, and social network size) and stressor characteristics (i.e., the perceived sensitivity of the issue at hand) moderate the stress-support seeking relationship – that is, determine when and how individuals seek support.

A novel contribution of my dissertation research is its focus on new social technologies as media over which social support requests can be made. While previous research on technology and social support has focused on largely anonymous forms of online support seeking, newer services such as Facebook are online services that focus on helping individuals interact with their existing, offline social network. Thus, social media present a unique venue over which support can be sought – one about which relationship researchers know relatively little. In my dissertation research (Rife, Kerns, & Updegraff, under review), I provide evidence that despite the recent proliferation of new communications technologies, in-person support seeking is by far the most common type. However, a number of the aforementioned moderators (e.g., rejection sensitivity and social network size) affected the popularity of a particular venue. For example, those with larger social networks were more likely to seek support in person in response to stress, whereas individuals higher in rejection sensitivity sought support from anonymous, online sources in response to stress.

Future Directions

While my research up to this point has focused primarily on the process of seeking social support, my future work will examine the health outcomes associated with social support sought and provided in different modalities (online and offline). Using both data from my dissertation research and newly-collected data, I will explore how online interactions may affect common representations of mental health (e.g., depression), and whether or not seeking social support online is an effective way of improving mental health. Finally, I am in the process of designing a study to experimentally examine the effect of online interaction on mood in an attempt to determine whether or not there is a causal relationship between communication in different venues and well-being, addressing the shortcomings of strictly correlational research in this area.

In addition to advancing my research program, these projects are particularly well-suited to collaboration with undergraduates, since the use of electronic communication among college students is common, and the subject has garnered much attention in the media in recent years.


Deitz, M.F., Williams, S., Rife, S.C., and Cantrell, P. (2013). Examining Cultural, Social, and Self-Related Aspects of Stigma in Relation to Sexual Assault and Trauma Symptoms. Forthcoming in Violence Against Women.

Hutson, S.P., Han, P.K., Hamilton, J.G., Rife, S.C., Al-Rahawan, M.M., Moser, R.P., Duty, S.P., Anand, S, & Alter, B.P. (2013) The use of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in Fanconi anaemia patients: a survey of decision making among families in the US and Canada. Forthcoming in Health Expectations.

Rife, S.C. (2012). Is there a natural right to healthcare? Human Affairs, 22(4), 613-622.

Rife, S.C., Kerns, K.A., and Updegraff, J.A. (2016) Seeking support in response to social and achievement stressors: A multivenue analysis. Forthcoming in Personal Relationships.
Click here to request a copy of this manuscript.

Rife, S.C., Kerns, K.A., and Updegraff, J.A. (under review) Support seeking in response to stress: Person-level moderators, contextual factors, and the role of online venues.

Rife, S.C., Cate, K.L., Kosinski, M., & Stillwell, D. (under review) The validity of research conducted over Facebook: A study of demographic and personality factors. Under review at International Journal of Social Research Methodology.
Click here to request a copy of this manuscript.

Rife, S.C., Kerns, K.A., and Updegraff, J.A. (in prep) Support Seeking Venues and Technology.

Rife, S.C., Kosinski, M., and Stillwell, D. (in prep) Patterns of Personal Expression in Online Communication: The Internet Today and Yesterday.

Rife, S.C. & Williams, S.L. (revise and resubmit) Perceived Stigma of Unwanted Sexual Contact and Psychosocial Outcomes among College Women. Sex Roles.

Williams, S.L., Taylor, D., Rife, S.C., & Cantrell, P.J. (in prep) Self-Related Explanations of Common Psychosocial Outcomes of Intimate Violence.

Rife, S.C. (in prep) Cultural Factors Influencing the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty: A Call for Research. Working paper available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2220335

Presentations and Invited Talks

Rife, S.C., Mickelson, K.D., Kosinski, M., & Stillwell, D. (2012, July). Facebook Networks and Local Population Parameters. Poster session presented at the biennial meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research, Chicago, IL.

Rife, S.C. & Mickelson, K.D. (2012, July). Stress and Support Seeking in a Sample of Low-Income Women. Talk given at the biennial meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research, Chicago, IL.

Hamilton, J.G., Han, P.K., Hutson, S.P., Rife, S.C., Kobrin, S.C., Moser, R.P., & Alter, B.P. (2012). Responses to ambiguity are not universal: The moderating role of need for cognitive closure. Symposium; abstract published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 43, S167.

Hamilton, J.G., Han, P.K., Hutson, S.P., Rife, S.C., Moser, R.P., & Alter, B.P. (2011, April). Worry Mediates the Relationship between Perceived Ambiguity and Decision-Making Difficulty about Stem Cell Transplantation in Fanconi Anemia. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, Washington, D.C.

Rife, S.C. (2010, December). Techniques for computer-based interviewing. Meeting of the Kent State University / Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy Community Mental Health Initiative, Kent, OH.

Rife, S.C. (2008, September). Using Checkbox Internet survey software for data collection in telephone interviews. Presentation for professional development seminar, East Tennessee State University Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Johnson City, TN.

Rife, S.C. & Williams, S.L. (2008, June). Sexual Assault, Perceived Stigma, and Religiosity: Implications for Help-Seeking. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Chicago, IL.

Cate, K.L., Strickland, S.E., Rife, S.C., Cini, C.J. (2008, March). Affirmations and test performance. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Charlotte, NC.

Cate, K.L., Strickland, S.E., Rife, S.C., Cini, C.J. (2008, March). Gender, religion, and perception: A study of attributions. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Charlotte, NC.

Williams, S.L. & Rife, S.C. (2008, February). Perceived Stigma and Control: A Mediation Model. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Albuquerque, NM.

Strickland, S.E., Rife, S.C. & Cini, C.J. (2007, April). Testosterone and Risky Behaviors in College Students. Poster session presented at the Georgia Undergraduate Research in Psychology conference, Kennesaw, GA.

Cate, K.L., Rife, S.C., Strickland, S.E., & Cini, C.J. (2007, February). Testosterone level and sexual behavior. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, New Orleans, LA.

Cate, K.L., Rife, S.C., Cini, C.J., & Strickland, S.E. (2007, February). Testosterone level and group membership: Military and religion. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, New Orleans, LA.

Williams, S.L. & Rife, S.C. (2006, November). Perceived Stigma: Explaining Common Effects of Abuse. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Southeastern Social Psychologists, Knoxville, TN.

Rife, S.C. (2006, April). The impact of intoxication on allocation of responsibility for rape across substance and gender. Poster session presented at the Georgia Undergraduate Research in Psychology conference, Kennesaw, GA.

Rife, S.C., Robertson, C.L., & McDonald, P. (2004, April). Intoxication: An "excuse"? for date rape? Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Nashville, TN.

Invited Symposia

Institute for Humane Studies / Liberty Fund. (2011, November). Property Rights and Freedom. Washington, DC.

Institute for Humane Studies / Liberty Fund. (2007, November). Sociology and the Liberal Tradition. Washington, DC.


I make every dataset collected or compiled under my direction available to the public and other researchers. Feel free to download whatever you like. If you wish to use one of these datasets in your own research, please contact me.

The Geocities Archive

Geocities was the first online venue for personal expression. Established in 1994, the company provided enough space for individuals to create personal homepages at no charge. After purchasing the company in the late 90s, Yahoo! Inc. decided to shut down the service, but not before a team of volunteers at ArchiveTeam and the Internet Archive downloaded a large portion of the service's user-generated content.

The result of this effort is now available to the public as a BitTorrent download. Although this archive is potentially valuable to researchers, its size - over 1 TB uncompressed - makes it difficult to manage. However, many social scientists will only be interested in the text within each webpage, as this is the most amenable (albeit unstructured) data for quantification and analysis.

This dataset contains text-only versions of all HTML and text files from the original Geocities archive. It does not contain any images, music files (remember when every page had a MIDI file embedded in it?), or other media. This stripped-down version of the Geocities archive is a mere 62.5 GB uncompressed, making it much easier to manage.

Download Documentation

IPIP-NEO-100 Personality Data

Collected in collaboration with Kelly Cate at North Georgia University, this dataset was used as a comparison to determine the viability of participant recruitment and data collection over Facebook. The dataset contains responses from over 600 undergraduates on each of the Five Factor personality traits, as well as demographic data and Facebook use measurments (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe's Facebook Intensity Scale).

Download Documentation

myPersonality Status Updates Linguistic Analysis

The myPersonality project is a data collection initiative using Facebook. In addition to collecting personality data, the myPersonality Project collects Facebook profile data and status updates. This dataset contains a linguistic analysis (using Pennebaker et al.'s Linguistic Inquiry Word Count program) of status updates from over 3 million users.

The Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) program measures 64 linguistic and psychological processes, personal concerns, and spoken categories. Each of the variables in this dataset is listed below. Additional information (including alphas) is available from the LIWC website, and the LIWC manual.

NOTE: Alternate license applies. See the myPersonality Database Use Guidelines for details.

Download Page (offsite)

The SNF Study

The SNF study ("SNF is Not Facebook" - recursive acronyms being an important part of hacker lore) was a 14-day study of undergraduates, tracking support seeking behavior in a variety of online and offline venues. In addition to the diary data, a wide variety of demographic, personality, social network and behavioral variables were assessed, including (but not limited to):

  • IPIP-NEO Proxy (100 items)
  • Bem Sex-Role Inventory
  • The Facebook Intensity Scale
  • CES-D
  • The Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire
  • The Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale

All data were collected through an online survey. More information and details regarding data collection protocols will be posted here shortly.

Download Documentation

Sexual Assault and Intoxication

From an experimental study of date rape and intoxication. Data collected in early 2004.


Unless otherwise noted, all datasets are made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License: http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/by/1.0.


Jana Hackathorn, PhD, Murray State University

Kathy Kerns, PhD, Kent State University

John Updegraff, PhD, Kent State University

Stacey L. Williams, PhD, East Tennessee State University

Mandi Deitz, PhD, East Tennessee State University

Kelly L. Cate, PhD, University of North Georgia

Michal Stilwell, PhD, Psychonomics Centre, Cambridge University

David Kosinski, PhD, Psychonomics Centre, Cambridge University