Social Competence of Children:

 

Definitions and Assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Knapp

 

CEP 900

 

Research Interests Portfolio

 

December 10, 2001
Definitions and Assessment of Social Competence

 

Several developmental theories acknowledged the importance of social interactions in the lifetime development of humans.  How well an individual interacts with others can be looked at in terms of his or her social competence.  The definition of this construct has experienced great changes since the formal psychological study of social competence began in the early 1920’s.  As psychology has expanded to acknowledge more environmental factors in human social, emotional, and cognitive development, researchers have accommodated these ideas into their conception of social competence by narrowing the definition to specific behaviors in specific settings when interacting with specific people or groups of people.  In other words, what began as simply a term to describe an individual’s ability to interact with others is now defined in terms of the physical and cultural environment in which the individual interacts with others, including the characteristics of the others with which he or she is interacting.  Similarly, the assessment of social competence is now more specific and defined than it was in the past.

Interest in social competence and the peer relationships of children grew out of findings that poor peer interactions in childhood predicted maladaptive outcomes in adulthood (Dodge, Asher, & Parkhurst, 1989).  The first definitions of social competence loosely described this construct as the successful interaction between an individual and his or her environment, or successful navigation of interpersonal interactions.  Social skills were considered as a separate but related construct and were not yet clearly incorporated into the definition of social competence.  While this definition of social competence appears to acknowledge environmental factors in the social interactions of humans, most assessment techniques for the social competence of children did not measure a child’s behavior in real life settings, even as recently as the 1970’s.  For example, children were sometimes asked to participate in structured role-playing activities with an adult experimenter, label facial expressions with emotion words, or give directions to a blindfolded listener as part of a social skills or social competence battery (Gottman, Gonso, & Rasmussen, 1975).  Because each research effort that examined social competence involved a variety of these assessment tools, which were often adapted from other constructs such as the study of cognitive abilities (e.g., Piaget’s perspective taking tasks), it was difficult to compare the results of these studies.  While some looked solely at peer acceptance or popularity as a measure of social competence, and described it as such, other experiments measured social competence in more complex terms, such as a child’s knowledge related to social problem solving.

            In the 1980s, with the rise of information processing model in the study of cognitive psychology, psychologists proposed similar models to describe social interactions and define social competence.  These models, such as the one described by Dodge in 1986 (Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey, & Brown, 1986; see Figure 1), broke social situations into specific units and hoped to explain the cognitive processes involved when a child was involved in a social interaction.  The five interactive components involved in this interaction included the social stimulus, the child’s internal processing of the stimulus (described in detail below), the child’s social behavior, the peer, or social partner’s, processing and judgment about the child, and the peer’s social behavior.  Social information was processed in four steps, which incorporated the short-term and long-term memory and other related concepts from the general information-processing model.  The social processing steps in Dodge’s model were encoding social cues, interpreting these social cues, retrieving and generating potential responses to the stimulus, and enacting the chosen response (see Figure 2).  This new conceptualization of social competence in terms of clearly defined cognitive processes and behaviors added to the assessment of the social competence of children.

 


Figure 1: A model of social exchange in children

(Dodge et al., 1986, p. 2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


            Rubin and Rose-Krasnor (1986, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992) devised a similar model of how children process social information.  The steps they outlined were, selecting a social goal, examining and interpreting the environment, accessing and selecting strategies, implementing a strategy, and evaluating the outcome of the strategy (see Figure 2).  Rubin and Rose-Krasnor expanded on this by acknowledging the influence of internal traits, such as self-perceptions or attributions, or states, such as affect, on whether or not these steps in social information processing were completed.  This conceptualization of social competence as the ability to perform a series of cognitive processes and enact appropriate behaviors in social situations allowed for the development of assessment tools that not only aided in the identification of socially incompetent children, but also identified specific deficits that could be targeted in intervention programs.  These intervention programs, or social skills training and coaching, became popular at the end of the 1980’s. 

Gresham and Elliott’s (1984, cited in Gresham & Reshly, 1987) proposal that there were four types of deficits related to social skills or social competence also contributed to the development of appropriate and practical assessment measures and interventions.  Gresham claimed that children identified as socially incompetent could have skill deficits, which meant the child did not have the social knowledge or skills necessary to engage in social interactions; performance deficits, which meant the child had knowledge and understanding of social skills but lacked the cognitive or physical ability to carry out the necessary behaviors, self-control skill or performance deficits, which meant that the child’s excessive anxiety or impulsivity interfered with their ability to acquire appropriate skills or, if the skills were acquired, their ability to properly execute the appropriate behaviors or skills in social situations.  Gresham (1981, cited in Gresham & Reschly, 1987) also identified three subdomains of social competence: adaptive behavior, social skills, and peer acceptance.  These aspects of social competence reflect the measurement tools used to assess social competence, and can be incorporated into the information processing models of social interaction proposed in 1986 by Dodge et al. and Rubin and Rose-Krasnor. 

 


Figure 2: Social Information-Processing Models

Note: Words in capital letters reflect Gresham’s subdomains of social competence.

 

Dodge et al., 1986

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Selecting a social goal.

SOCIAL SKILLS

 

Interpreting the context.

SOCIAL SKILLS

 

Implementing a strategy.

ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR

 
Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1986

 

Accessing and selecting strategies.

SOCIAL SKILLS

 

Evaluating the outcome.

PEER

ACCEPTANCE

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


            The definition and assessment of social competence throughout the second half of the twentieth century has primarily focused on the identification of children at risk for potential negative consequences of poor peer relationships.  In simply identifying these children, assessment tools such as sociometric rating scales are effective.  In order to complete these scales, children rate how much they like their classmates or would prefer to work or play with them, and researchers determine which children in the classroom are popular, accepted, rejected, or neglected.  Traditionally, rejected and neglected children would receive social skills training in order to improve their social knowledge and successful experience in social interactions.  When the other two aspects of social competence, namely social skills and adaptive behaviors, are assessed through parent or teacher ratings or behavioral checklists, researchers or school psychologists can go one step further than identifying socially at-risk children; they can now develop individualized interventions that target the skill deficits or performance deficits the child apparently has in social interactions.

Psychology has moved away from the information-processing model of cognitive thought as a central focus and is now examining development in ecological terms, accounting for internal processes as well as characteristics of the external environment.  Studies of social competence and peer interactions continue to examine the behavioral determinants of children’s peer relationships, the hypothesis that social skills deficits account for poor social functioning, the origins of these skills and deficits, and types of peer relationships and relationship features (Ladd, 1999).  Innovative research efforts include an attempt to determine how and to what degree a child’s behaviors and peer relationships separately contribute to development and adjustment.  Researchers are also examining the affective and physiological correlates of social competence and the complex interplay of emotional dispositions, emotional regulation, and behavioral regulation in socially competent and incompetent children.  The role of sex/gender in children’s peer relationships as well as cultural and ethnic similarities and differences in children’s social competence and peer relationships are also being studied through current research efforts.  These studies will hopefully contribute to a more precise and descriptive definition of social competence as well as assessment tools that can be used by a variety of professionals.  In fields such as school psychology where a common language is necessary when collaborating with each other and with other professionals, there is a need for clear definitions and common assessment tools.

 

 


Definition, Measurement, and Study of Social Competence

 

Historical Overview

 

            Tracing the history of the study of social competence in psychological literature is complicated because the construct incorporates many related ideas.  Social skills, peer acceptance, and adaptive functioning are prominent themes in development, and all are associated with social competence.  Study of the construct of social competence began early in the twentieth century as interest in childhood and children’s peer groups increased.  The most prominent breakthrough occurred when researchers discovered in the middle of the century that social competence was related to future mental health.  Numerous studies began to examine how children interact with their peers and how they function within social situations.  As research continued and new discoveries were made about the importance of social interaction and social competence in children’s lives, as well as the nature of these interactions, the definitions and the measurement techniques used in the assessment of social competence changed to fit with these new findings and with the current views of psychology and development. 

Various theories of development, including those written by Freud, Erickson, and Piaget emphasize the importance of social groups and interactions in an individual’s development.  The study of the social interactions of children began in the 1930’s with investigations into the nature of peer groups and the associations between children’s characteristics and their relative positions within these peer groups (Ladd, 1999).  The study of social competence began in full force in the 1950’s and 1960’s when research found that children’s social competence was related to future mental health and adjustment (Dodge, Asher, & Parkhurst, 1989).  For example, Roff (1961, cited in Dodge et al., 1989) found that social incompetence in early and middle childhood could be linked to maladaptive outcomes in adulthood.  Other researchers linked social incompetence to later truancy, school discipline problems, and eventual school dropout.

Harlow’s (1969; cited in Ladd, 1999) rhesus monkey experiments, in which infant monkeys were raised in a variety of environments, including without their mothers or without same-age peers, led to the realization that the monkeys did not acquire essential social skills when peers were not present during development, and that peer interactions could make up for the mother’s absence.  This finding, along with the previous findings linking social incompetence to future maladaptive functioning highlighted the importance of social interactions and inspired extensive research into the peer interactions of children. Definitions of social competence at this time described the concept as the successful interaction between an individual and his environment.  For example, White (1959, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992) wrote that social competence was an organism’s capacity to interact effectively with its environment.

In 1953, Jahoda (cited in Pellegrini, 1985) was among the first researchers to recognize that individuals can choose to apply a variety of problem-solving skills and strategies in problematic social situations.  This set the stage for future conceptualizations of social competence in terms of terms of the steps involved in effective social functioning and information processing.  For example, in 1969, Goldfried and d’Zurilla (cited in Dodge, Asher, & Parkhurst, 1989) released a paper describing social competence as a judgment made by one person about the performance of another in one situation or in all situations.  They defined social competence as “the effectiveness or adequacy with which an individual is capable of responding to various problematic situations which confront him (1969, p. 161, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992, p. 284), and stipulated that the assessment of social competence should occur within the context of a critical or problematic situation because this type of functioning is most closely tied to important social outcomes.  The four steps in social interactions, as described by Goldfried and d’Zurilla were, identifying and recognizing the problematic situation, generating possible solutions to the problem, deciding on the most appropriate solution, and implementing this solution.  This model served as a basis for future information-processing models of social behaviors, and the paper sparked a multitude of studies that examined how individuals used social knowledge in their performance on social tasks.  Furthermore, the results of these studies suggested that coaching or training socially incompetent children in specific social knowledge or skills could improve their social interactions and peer relationships (Dodge et al., 1989).

To further explore the role of social interactions in the lives of children, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, researchers wanted to gain understanding about how children developed relationships.  They based their investigations on the assumption that children’s behaviors influenced relationships, and attempted to identify aspects of social competence.  They specifically focused on behaviors that were correlated with relational constructs such as peer acceptance (Ladd, 1999).  Research into the effectiveness of coaching and training children social skills or behaviors also began during these decades, based on the behaviors and skills that were identified in the aforementioned studies.  Following from this research, social skills were defined as behaviors that enhanced peer acceptance, friendship, or other positive relational outcomes (Ladd, 1999).

Measurement of social competence at this time was usually complex, disjointed, and varied greatly among research efforts.  For example, Gottman, Gonso, and Rasmussen (1975) studied the relationship among social interaction, social competence, and friendship in children.  They measured social competence by way of classroom behavioral assessments and a battery of social skills assessments including asking children to label emotions of facial expressions, complete perspective-taking tasks similar to the mountain problems employed by Piaget, give directions to blindfolded listeners, and participate in to role-playing activities with the experimenter (making friends and giving help).

In efforts to determine why some children were not exhibiting social skills in some interactions, social information processing models were devised to explain what happens in a social interaction.  These models incorporated aspects from the information-processing model in cognitive psychology as well as from the steps outlined in Goldfried and d’Zurilla’s model (1969, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992).  Examples include those models devised by Dodge et al. (1986) and Rubin and Rose-Krasnor (1986, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992). 

Dodge’s model broke social interactions into five interactive units, as depicted in Figure 1: the social stimulus, the child’s processing (which is explained below in further detail), the child’s social behavior, the peer’s processing and judgment about the child, and the peer’s social behavior.  Dodge broke the child’s processing of the social situation into four steps: encoding social cues, interpreting these social cues, retrieving and generating potential responses to the stimulus, and enacting the chosen response.

Rubin and Rose-Krasnor (1986, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992) developed a Social Information-Processing Model of social competence similar to the one developed by Dodge.  They believed that social behavior reflected automaticity in thinking, and in carrying out the following steps: selecting a social goal, examining the environment, accessing and selecting strategies, implementing a strategy, and evaluating the outcome of the strategy.  Their model acknowledged the influence of self-perceptions, attributions, and affect on completion of these five steps.  Their definition of social competence incorporated these last three ideas: “the ability to achieve personal goals in social interaction while simultaneously maintaining positive relationships with others over time and across situations” (p. 285).

Studies at this time which reflected the ideas of Dodge, Rubin, and Rose-Krasnor, often looked at the relationship between social cognition (interpersonal understanding and means-ends problem-solving ability) and social competence.  Pellegrini’s (1985) study measured social competence in terms of peer perceptions by asking children to assign their classmates to roles in a hypothetical class play (Lambert & Bower, 1961, cited in Pellegrini, 1985).  In 1987, Rotheram employed several measurement tools to investigate how interpersonal problem solving, assertiveness, and self-esteem were related to academic competence and social competence with peers and teachers.  Peer social competence was assessed by having each child identify three best friends in the classroom.  Teacher-related social competence was measured by having the children’s teacher rate her students on a ten-point scale of comportment.  These two measures of social competence are easy to administer, yet they do not give as complete a picture of the child’s social competence as future measurement tools would.

            A prominent researcher of social competence in the mid-1980’s was Gresham.  He identified three subdomains of social competence: adaptive behavior, social skills, and peer acceptance.  While this third aspect could be looked at as an outcome or result of socially competent behavior, measurement of peer acceptance is often used in assessing social competence.  Gresham defined social skills as, “behaviors that, within given situations, maximize the probability of securing and maintaining reinforcement and/or decreasing the likelihood of punishment or extinction contingent upon one’s social behavior” (Gresham, 1981, cited in Gresham & Reschly, 1987). Gresham and Reshly (1987) examined a handful of the assessment tools available for the measurement of adaptive behavior, social skills, and peer acceptance.  They found that the assessment of social competence was hindered by an interaction among the method employed by a measure, the setting it targets, and the content of the items on the measure.  While, in many cases, these measures claimed to be measuring similar constructs, they could not be directly compared without accounting for other features of the measures such as who the respondent was (e.g., parent or teacher), how the items were worded, or what setting was targeted (e.g., school or home).  The authors suggested that multiple methods should be used to assess social behavior in several settings by means of scales that incorporated varied content.  Hughes and Hall (1987) made a similar recommendation after discussing the problems of reliability and validity in many social competence measures.  They proposed that school psychologists first gather evaluative data on child clients via sociometric procedures and teacher rating scales, conduct semistructured interviews with the child to form hypotheses about specific deficits, and administer measures that would provide information about cognitive and behavioral skill deficits.

Research during this time often focused on children who were not displaying social skills in efforts to identify and help these children who were potentially at risk of long-term negative outcomes due to poor social interactions.  Gresham and Elliott (1984, cited in Kennedy, 1988) proposed that these children could have one of four deficits: skill deficits, in which children did not have the knowledge or cognitive abilities to carry out a certain behavior, performance deficits, self-control skill deficits, and self-control performance deficits, in which children had excessive anxiety or impulsivity that prohibited proper execution of the behaviors or skills they knew and understood.

Despite all the developments and changes in the conceptualization of social competence throughout the twentieth century, there still was a general lack of agreement about the definition and measurement of social competence during the 1980’s (Dodge et al., 1989).  While some definitions and assessment methods looked at specific behaviors exhibited by children, others tried to tap underlying abilities.  Simultaneously, there was disagreement about whether social competence should be thought of as a trait or as a series of acquired skills.  Therefore, definitions of social competence in the 1980’s placed different emphasis on social cognitive skills and capacity, behavioral performance, judgments made by others (McFall, 1982, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992; Hops, 1983, cited in Merrell, 1993), and psychological risk.  They also incorporated the idea that goals, strategies, and outcomes had to be effective and appropriate to differing agrees.  For example, social competence was thought of as the “attainment of relevant social goals in specified social contexts, using appropriate means and resulting in positive developmental outcomes” (Ford, 1982, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992) and “the ability to engage effectively in complex interpersonal interaction and to use and understand people effectively” (Oppenheim, 1989, cited in Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992).  These definitions moved away from the ambiguity present in definitions like O’Malley’s (1977, cited in Dodge et al., 1989), which said that social competence was the ability to attain personal goals in social situations, but made no reference to the appropriateness of the goals themselves.  However, the definitions of the 1980’s often did not acknowledge the age, situation, and skill specificity implicit in the complex construct of social competence (Pellegrini, 2000).

 

 

 

Current Overview

 

            Psychology has still not offered a concrete, comprehensive definition of social competence.  In addition, the assessment tools used by practitioners and researchers, which claim to assess the construct of social competence, in truth look at a variety of concepts and ideas making it difficult to compare the results of research efforts or draw conclusions about how social competence effects the development of children.  While disagreement still exists, psychologists and researchers increasingly acknowledge the differences within definitions and assessments and finding useful similarities among them.

From the 1990’s to the present, psychologists have developed comprehensive measurement tools to use as part of a more ecological approach to assessment.  For example, in 1993, Merrell compared several behavioral rating scales (e.g., Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment, Walker & McConnell, 1988; Social Skills Rating System, Gresham & Elliott, 1990; and the Waksman Social Skills Rating Scale, Waksman, 1985) to inform the development of their School Social Behavior Scales.  The School Social Behavior Scales consist of a social competence scale and an antisocial behavior scale.  The Social Competence scale measures interpersonal skills, self-management skills, and academic skills.

These measurement tools are no longer used in isolation, and research suggests that, in order to overcome instrument, source, and setting variance, assessments should be ecological and comprehensive.  Merrell (1993) recommends that this assessment include systematic direct behavioral observation in several settings; behavior rating scales that are completed by more than one teacher or adult from the child’s school, as well as by the parents of the child; interviews with the student’s referring teacher, parents, and the student; and objective self-report data from the student.

Sheridan, Hungelmann, and Maughan (1999) suggested that ecological assessments will allow practitioners to identify social skills that are meaningful and appropriate within the settings children live in and to assess important features of the environments, such as physical characteristics, demands of the environment, and behavioral contingencies for specific actions.  Use of a multimethod, multisource, and multisetting assessment recognizes that social environments are dynamic and distinct from one another.  Ecological, comprehensive assessment also allows for better linkage with effective intervention strategies that fit the child’s social skill and behavioral needs.

            Research involving social competence continues to pursue ideas discussed in the historical overview.  In addition, new agendas have been developed to further our understanding of how and why social competence is important in the healthy development of children.  Ladd (1999) wrote that current research was examining how child behaviors and peer relationships uniquely contributed to future development or adjustment.  Past research has assumed the poor peer relationships were a primary cause of maladjustment, and targeted specific behavioral or skill deficits in order to improve social interactions.  However, it is also possible that the socially incompetent behaviors themselves are in some way contributing to future developmental problems.  While previous studies have begun to tap into the affective and physiological correlates of children’s competence and relationships with peers, new studies have examined how a child’s affect ties in with his or her social competence.  For example, anxiety or anger in social situations has been shown to contribute to performance deficits in social functioning.  This idea is of particular importance in the development for groups of children at risk of poor social competence, such as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Innovative research efforts in social competence and peer relationships of children are looking at the role of sex or gender in these interactions, as well as the cultural and ethnic similarities and differences in children’s social competence and peer relationships. 

Continued research in this area will contribute to the development of precise and useful definitions of social competence, as well as the creation and appropriate use of assessment tools.  These advances will aid in effective communication among professionals such as school psychologists who use the term social competence regularly and frequently assess the social functioning of their clients.  In an environment such as educational institutions where collaboration among professionals is essential, this common language will greatly improve how we effectively serve our children.


Reading Notes

Definitions of Social Competence

            Various overview articles and handbook chapters provide information about the history of research in the area of social competence, previous definitions of social competence, as well as definitions that are currently considered as comprehensive and descriptive of this complex construct. 

 

Pellegrini, D.S. (1985). Social cognition and competence in middle childhood. Child

Development, 56(1), 253-264.

 

            As part of his introduction to an empirical study on social cognition and competence in middle childhood, Pellegrini points out that Jahoda, in 1953, as among the first to recognize that an individual can choose to apply various problem-solving skills and strategies in problematic social situations.  Pellegrini adds that Selman (1980) claimed that developmental gains in social perspective-taking ability provided a foundation for one’s understanding of people, friendships, and groups.

 

Dodge, K.A., Pettit, G.S., McClaskey, C.L., & Brown, M.M. (1986). Social competence in

children. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 51(2, No. 213).

 

Dodge and his colleagues list several definitions of social competence (see Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992 for more): “effective response of the individual to specific life situations” (Goldfried & d’Zurilla, 1969, p. 158), “the possession of the capability to generate skilled behavior” (Trower, 1982, p. 419), “aspects of social behavior that are important with respect to preventing physical illness or psychopathology in children and adults” (Putallaz & Gottman, 1983, p. 7), and “those who manage well the circumstances which they encounter daily, and who possess a judgment which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely miss the expedient course of action” (Socrates, cited in Goldfried & d’Zurilla, 1969, p. 155), and point out that these definitions vary in their emphasis on social cognitive skills and capacity, behavioral performance, judgments by others, and psychological risk associated with social incompetence.

Dodge et al. then propose a reciprocal influence model of relation between social information-processing patterns and children’s social behavior.  The units of social interaction are 1) the social stimulus, 2) the child’s processing (encode social cues, interpret cues, retrieve and generate responses, enact chosen response), 3) the child’s social behavior, 4) the peer’s processing and judgment about the child, and 5) the peer’s social behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gresham, F.M., & Reschly, D.J. (1987). Dimensions of social competence: Method factors in the

assessment of adaptive behavior, social skills, and peer acceptance. Journal of School Psychology, 25, 367-381.

 

            Gresham and Reschly point out that Thorndike’s (1927) proposal that there are three types of intelligence included social intelligence or competence, which has now become an important aspect in classification criteria for disorders such as mental retardation.  In 1986, Gresham identified three subdomains of social competence: adaptive behavior, social skills, and peer acceptance, the last of which is an outcome of socially competent behavior.  In 1981, Gresham defined social skills as “behaviors that, within given situations, maximize the probability of securing and maintaining reinforcement and/or decreasing the likelihood of punishment or extinction contingent upon one’s social behavior” (p. 368).

 

Hughes, J.N., & Hall, R.J. (1987). Proposed model for the assessment of children’s social

competence. Professional School Psychology, 2(4), 247-260.

 

Cognitive and behavioral skills used in social situations

 

Appropriate    Inappropriate

 
            Hughes and Hall outline four cases in the combination of correct and incorrect social perceptions with appropriate and inappropriate cognitive and behavioral skills used in social situations, offering examples of the types of errors children make. 

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Social Cognition: Person’s perception of the social situation


Incorrect	Correct
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Kennedy, J.H. (1988). Issues in the identification of socially incompetent children. School

Psychology Review, 17(2), 276-288.

 

            In this article about the identification of socially incompetent children, Kennedy outlines Gresham & Elliott’s (1984) identification of four general social skills problems in children: skill deficits, performance deficits, self-control skill deficits, and self-control performance deficits.  He also claims that, while children with self-control skill and performance deficits due to emotional arousal factors such as anxiety are most often targeted for social skills intervention, children with self-control skill or performance deficits due to impulsivity may have a higher risk of negative outcomes.

 

Dodge, K.A., Asher, S.R., & Parkhurst, J.T. (1989). Social life as a goal-coordination task. In C.

Ames and R. Ames (Eds.), Research on Motivation in Education. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.

 

            In this chapter on the importance of goals in social interactions, Dodge and his colleagues discuss social competence.  Their brief overview of the history of the study of social competence says that the study of social competence increased in 1950s and 1960s with findings that social competence was related to mental health, such as those made by Zigler & Phillips (1961), Roff, (1961; social incompetence in early and middle childhood was linked to maladaptive outcomes in adulthood), Gibson & Hanson (1969) and Ullmann (1957; social incompetence predicted later truancy, school discipline problems, and eventual dropout).  Even with this increased interest in social competence, there was little agreement about the conceptualization or the measurement of the construct.  Should researchers look at specific behaviors or underlying abilities?  Was social competence a trait or a series of acquired skills?

A widely held definition of social competence was that written by O’Malley in 1977, which said that social competence was the ability to attain personal goals in social situations.  Dodge criticized this definition as giving no reference to the appropriateness of the goals.

A paper by Goldfried and d’Zurilla (1969) noted that competence is a judgment made by a person about the performance of another person, and that research should consider judgments about people in critical, problematic situations.  This began research efforts to examine how people say they would react to specific social situations and what social knowledge is involved in the performance of social tasks. A widely held definition of social competence was that written by O’Malley in 1977, which said that social competence was the ability to attain personal goals in social situations.  Dodge criticized this definition as giving no reference to the appropriateness of the goals.

 

Rubin, K.H., & Rose-Krasnor, L. (1992). Interpersonal problem solving and social competence

in children. In V.B. Van Hasselt and Michel Hersen, Handbook of Social Development: A Lifespan Perspective. New York: Plenum Press, 283-323.

 

            Rubin and Rose-Krasnor list previous conceptualizations and definitions of social competence: “an organism’s capacity to interact effectively with its environment” (White, 1959), “the effectiveness or adequacy with which an individual is capable of responding to various problematic situations which confront him” (Goldfried & d’Zurilla, 1969), “an individual’s everyday effectiveness in dealing with his environment” (Zigler, 1973), “a judgment by another than an individual has behaved effectively” (McFall, 1982), “attainment of relevant social goals in specified social contexts, using appropriate means and resulting in positive developmental outcomes” (Ford, 1982), the ability “to make use of environmental and personal resources to achieve a good developmental outcome” (Waters & Sroufe, 1983), and “the ability to engage effectively in complex interpersonal interaction and to use and understand people effectively” (Oppenheim, 1989).  They then offer their own comprehensive definition of social competence: “the ability to achieve personal goals in social interaction while simultaneously maintaining positive relationships with others over time and across situations” (p. 285).  The three main properties of social behavior are its goal orientation, the employment of appropriate and acceptable strategies, and successful and effective outcomes.

            One of the earliest models of social competence was that proposed in a paper by Goldfried and d’Zurilla (1969), which broke social competence into the steps of identification of the problematic situation, generation of possible solutions, decision of the appropriate alternative, and implementation of the selected strategy. 

Spivack and Shure (1974) conceived of this construct as sensitivity to interpersonal problems and the ability to a) generate alternative solutions to these problems, b) consider step-by-step means to achieve social goals, c) articulate consequences of social acts for oneself and others and generate alternative consequences to acts before deciding on a behavior, and d) identify and understand the motives and behaviors of others.  These last three components require advanced perspective-taking skills.

Rubin and Rose-Krasnor developed a Social Information-Processing Model of Social Competence in 1986.  The steps in this model are a) selecting the social goal, b) examining the task environment, c) accessing and selecting strategies, d) implementing a strategy, and e) judging success or failure of the strategy outcome.  Self-perceptions, attributions, and the affect of the individual influence this process.

Around the same time, Dodge proposed a Social-Cognitive Model.  The four steps in his model were a) encoding of social cues, b) interpretation of social cues, c) retrieval and generation of potential responses, and d) implementation of the chosen response.

 

Michelson, L., Sugai, D.P., Wood, R.P., & Kazdin, A.E. (1993). Social Skills Assessment and

Training with Children: An Empirically Based Handbook. New York: Plenum Press.

 

            In an introduction to a handbook of social skills assessment and training, Michelson and colleagues explain that there is a well established, strong relation between social competence in childhood and subsequent social and psychological functioning.  They define social skills as a set of complex interpersonal behaviors, giving other definitions as well: a “repertoire of verbal and nonverbal behaviors by which children affect the responses of other individuals…in the interpersonal context” (Rinn & Markle, 1979), the “ability to behave in ways that are rewarded and not to behave so that one is punished or ignored by others” (Libet & Lewinsohn, 1973), and the “ability to interact with others in a given social context in specific ways that are societally acceptable or valued and at the same time personally beneficial, mutually beneficial, or beneficial primarily to others” (Combs & Slaby, 1977, p. 162).

They add that social skills are acquired through learning, comprise specific and discrete verbal and nonverbal behaviors, entail both effective and appropriate initiations and responses, maximize social reinforcement, are interactive in nature, and entail both effective and appropriate responsiveness.  Social skill performance is influenced by characteristics of the environment.  Finally, they state that deficits and excesses in social performance can be specified and targeted for intervention.

 

 

 

 

 

Schneider, B.H. (1993). Children's social competence in context: the contributions of family,

school and culture. New York: Pergamon Press.

 

            In the first chapter of this book, entitled “Context Factors in Child Development Theory,” Schneider summarizes the history of the definition of social competence.  One approach to defining social competence involves the inclusion of all behaviors and traits that are associated with outcomes such as peer acceptance or with effective behavior in social situations.  Definitions of social competence he lists are those by Parks (1985), “the degree to which individuals have satisfied their goals in a given social situation without jeopardizing their opportunity to pursue other subjectively more important goals,” and Ford (1982), “the attainment of relevant social goals in specified social contexts, using appropriate means and resulting in positive developmental outcomes.”  Social skills definitions include, a “set of goal-directed, situationally-appropriate social behaviors” (Hargie, 1986), and “interpersonal behaviors which are normative and/or socially sanctioned” (Bellack & Hersen, 1979).

            There has recently been a shift from looking at behaviors that lead to peer group acceptance to looking at behaviors that influence friendships or small networks of intimate friendships.  There is an increasing awareness of the need to distinguish between those who are capable of initiating social interaction but choose not to, and those who experience distress because of their social isolation but are unable to do anything.  This falls in line with Gresham’s (1986) separation of social skills deficits and social performance deficits possibly due to excessive anxiety or impulsivity.

            Schneider’s definition of social competence is “the ability to implement developmentally-appropriate social behaviors that enhance one’s interpersonal relationships without causing harm to anyone.”

 

Merrell, K.W., & Popinga, M.R. (1994). The alliance of adaptive behavior and social

competence: An examination of relationships between the scales of independent behavior and the social skills rating system. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 15(1), 39-47.

 

            In their introduction to an empirical study related to social competence, Merrell and Popinga discuss the idea that no single definition of social competence is universally agreed on.  They contribute this fact to the varying definitions from behavior, cognitive, and educational viewpoints.  The commonality in these definitions is the claim that social competence allows individuals to achieve successful social outcomes, to develop positive relationships with peers, and to engage in social behaviors with positive consequences.

 

Rydell, A.M., Hagekull, B., Bohlin, G. (1997). Measurement of two social competence aspects

in middle childhood. Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 824-833.

 

            In the introduction to their study on aspects of social competence, Rydell and colleagues point out that social competence is studied in terms of peer status, prosocial behaviors, and interpersonal skills.  Cavell (1990) stated that the various definitions of social competence often refer to different levels of the construct.  Distinctions must be made between the products of social competence (peer status, self-esteem) and the actual social behaviors (skills and prosocial behavior).

 

Damon, W. (1998). Handbook of Child Psychology (pp. 644-646). New York: J. Wiley.

 

            Damon defines both social skills and social competence and lists previous conceptualizations of social competence (see Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992).  His definition of social skills is “discrete behaviors that lead children to solve social tasks or achieve social success” (p. 644).  He uses Rubin & Rose-Krasnor’s definition of social competence, which accounts for an individual’s ability to balance personal desires against personal consequences, acknowledges that individuals exist within social and personal contexts, and allows one to distinguish between socially successful and socially unsuccessful children.  Socially unsuccessful children, for example, may have the social cognitive knowledge of how to interact appropriately, yet experience interpersonal failure because they are unable to regulate anxiety or other feelings.

 

Ladd, G.W. (1999). Peer relationships and social competence during early and middle childhood.

Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 333-359.

 

            Ladd offers an extensive historical overview of the study of children’s peer relationships and social competence, beginning with Mead, Freud, Erickson, and Piaget’s theories that emphasized the importance of social groups on the development of individuals.  In the 1930s, studies looked at the nature of peer groups, and the association between children’s characteristics and their positions within their peer groups.  Little research was done in this area during World War II, and it was not until the 1970’s that research efforts picked up where they had left off.  Harlow’s (1969) rhesus monkey experiments emphasized the importance of social interactions during development, showing that essential social skills were not learned in the absence of peers and that peer interactions could make up for maternal absence.  The negative implications (i.e., later deviance) of poor peer relations during childhood were also studied.

Researchers in the late 1970’s and 1980’s wanted to understand how children developed relationships.  They assumed that children’s social behaviors influenced this friendship formation, and attempted to identify aspects of social competence.  They hypothesized that certain behaviors (prosocial behaviors) correlated with relational constructs such as peer acceptance and that antisocial or disruptive behaviors were likely causes of poor social interactions.  Social skills coaching and training began in order to improve the peer relations of children.  Social skills were defined as behaviors that appeared to enhance peer acceptance, friendship, or other positive relational outcomes.  Skill deficits were explanations for problematic relationships.  Two lines of inquiry looked at why some children did not exhibit appropriate social skills in interactions.  The first looked at early skill acquisition and information processing models (e.g., Dodge, 1986) and the second looked at the acquisition of social skills and deficits within early socialization contexts such (i.e., the family).

In the 1990’s, researchers continue to explore the determinants of children’s peer relationships and the effects of their behavior on formation and maintenance of these relationships, looking at a broader range of antecedents and correlates as well as relationships types and stages.  The origins of children’s social skills and skill deficits are still examined, with continued interest in the social-information processing models.  New branches of research are looking at child behaviors versus peer relationships as potential causes of developmental adjustment, the affective and physiological correlates of children’s peer competence and relationships (i.e., the interplay of emotional dispositions, emotional regulation, and behavioral regulation), the role of sex or gender in peer relationships, and the cultural and ethnic similarities and differences in children’s social competence and peer relationships.

 

Sheridan, S.M., Hungelmann, A., & Maughan, D.P. (1999). A contextualized framework for

social skills assessment, intervention, and generalization. The School Psychology Review, 28(1), 84-103.

 

            Sheridan and Walker (1999) previously defined social skills as “discrete, learned behaviors exhibited by an individual for the purpose of performing a task”.  They distinguish this from social competence, which Gresham (1986) defined as the evaluative judgments of others.  In this study conducted by Sheridan and her colleagues, social skills is defined with both concepts in mind: “goal-directed, learned behaviors that allow one to interact and function effectively in a variety of social contexts” (Sheridan & Walker, 1999, p. 687; p. 85).

 

Pellegrini, A.D. (2000). The Child at School: Interaction with Peers and Teachers. London:

Arnold.

 

            In the second chapter of this book, entitled “Children’s Social Competence and Peer Relations,” Pellegrini discusses the cognitive, affective, and social processes involved in social competence.  He also refers to Waters and Sroufe’s (1983) definitions of social competence as the “ability to generate and coordinate flexible adaptive responses to demands and to generate and capitalize on opportunities in the environment,” and as a “measure of children’s adaptive or functional behaviors in their environments.”  Pellegrini points out that these definitions are not age, situation, or skill specific.  He writes that the type of functioning, as well as the contexts the child is in, will vary with the age of the child, and that this should be taken into account when considering the construct of social competence.

           

Measurement and Assessment of Social Competence

 

            These articles offer information about the measurement tools and methods used in the assessment of social competence.

 

Gresham, F.M., & Reschly, D.J. (1987). Dimensions of social competence: Method factors in the

assessment of adaptive behavior, social skills, and peer acceptance. Journal of School Psychology, 25, 367-381.

 

            Gresham and Reschly discuss the assessment of social competence, stating that these instruments are not as well developed, as carefully studied, or as widely used as those instruments in the assessment of cognitive competencies.  Social competence assessment instruments that are available reflect different measurement procedures, different social settings, and rely on different respondents.  The dimensions of social competence were established in this study by various existing methods of assessing adaptive behavior (Adaptive Behavior Inventory for Children; Children’s Adaptive Behavior Scale), social skills (Social Behavior Assessment, teacher and parent versions), and peer acceptance (sociometric status measures: “play with” ratings, “work with” ratings, and peer behavioral assessment).  Based on the correlations among these various assessment tools, Gresham and Reschly concluded that the assessment of social competence constructs depends on the methods used to operationalize the constructs, the setting factors, and differences in content.  In other words, the assessment of social competence appears to be hindered by Method x Setting x Content confounds.  The authors’ solution or suggestion is that school psychologists employ multiple methods to assess behavior in several settings with scales that incorporate varied content.

 

Hughes, J.N., & Hall, R.J. (1987). Proposed model for the assessment of children’s social

competence. Professional School Psychology, 2(4), 247-260.

 

            After pointing out problems with social competence assessment techniques, such as the reliability issues of self-report measures and validity questions about role-play behavioral observations, Hughes and Hall outline three stages of assessment for use by school psychologists.  The three stages are collecting evaluative data from sociometric procedures and teacher rating scales, conducting a semi-structured interview with the child to form preliminary hypotheses specific cognitive and behavioral skill deficits, and administering measures that provide information about cognitive and behavioral skill deficits.  This assessment incorporates three components of the social decision-making process: does the child have trouble reading the social situation, generating appropriate problem-solving strategies, and/or applying appropriate problem-solving strategies to problematic social situations.

 

Kennedy, J.H. (1988). Issues in the identification of socially incompetent children. School

Psychology Review, 17(2), 276-288.

 

            Kennedy lists reasons for assessing a child’s social competence: student identification, intervention program selection, progress monitoring, overall program evaluation, research, and social validation of alternate methods.  He also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of rating scales and nomination techniques completed by peers (sociometric measures), descriptive matching methods completed by peers, self-report measures, teacher ratings, direct behavioral observation, and structured behavioral role play.  Finally, he points out that standards for social competence may vary as a function of age, sex, socioeconomic status, and race.

 

Merrell, K.W. (1989). Concurrent relationships between two behavioral rating scales for

teachers: An examination of self-control, social competence, and social behavioral adjustment. Psychology in the Schools, 26, 267-271.

 

            Merrell highlights the strengths and weaknesses of behavioral checklists and rating scales in the assessment of social competence and social behaviors.  Contrasting these measures with direct behavioral observation, he says that rating scales completed by teachers who have contact with the child over a long period of time can capture rare but significant issues that may be missed in time-sampling observation.  Rating scales are also easy to administer, require little time, and can cover a wide range of possible behaviors.  One weakness of rating scales and checklists is that they are based on national norms rather than a comparison with the local student population.  Merrell recommends that school psychologists use both observations and rating scales in their assessment of social competence and social behaviors.

            Merrell describes the Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment (Walker & McConnell, 1988), which is completed by a teacher, and measures teacher-preferred social behavior, peer-preferred social behavior, and school adjustment behavior.

 

Merrell, K.W. (1993). Using behavioral rating scales to assess social skills and antisocial

behavior in school settings: Development of the School Social Behavior Scales. School Psychology Review, 22(1), 115-133.

 

            In the early 1990s, Merrell developed the School Social Behavior Scales (SSBS).  Before describing the process of development, he discusses previous measures, such as the Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment (Walker & McConnell, 1988), Social Skills Rating System (Gresham & Elliott, 1990), and the Waksman Social Skills Rating System (Waksman, 1985).

            The SSBS is made up of two scales, social competence and antisocial behavior.  The Social Competence Scale assess a student’s interpersonal skills (e.g., “offers help to other students when needed,” “is sought out by peers to join activities”), self-management skills (e.g., “follows classroom rules,” “controls temper when angry”), and academic skills (e.g., “appropriately transitions between different classroom activities,” “completes assigned activities on time”).

            Suggested uses of the SSBS include using it for screening in order to identify students who are behaviorally at risk, using it as part of a multimethod, multisource assessment battery for determining program eligibility or designing intervention programs, and using it as a research instrument in studying social competence and problem behavior patterns.  Merrell suggests comprehensive assessment of social competence and antisocial behavior through systematic direct behavioral observation in several settings; behavior rating scales completed by more than one teacher and the child’s parents, as well as other prominent adults; interviews with the student’s referring teacher, parents, and the student; and objective self-report data from the student.

 

Schneider, B.H. (1993). Children's social competence in context: the contributions of family,

school and culture. New York: Pergamon Press.

 

            Schneider writes in the first chapter of this book that the assessment of social competence usually entails the measurement of one or more social skills, the manifestation of social skills in overt behaviors, and their outcomes in terms of enhanced interpersonal relationships.  Methods of assessment include information from children’s peers (sociometric choice or sociometric rating scales), direct observation, information directly obtained from the child, and ratings by teachers or parents.  The strengths and weaknesses of these methods are discussed, and Schneider concludes that multimethod assessment is necessary in the assessment of social competence.

 

Sheridan, S.M., Hungelmann, A., & Maughan, D.P. (1999). A contextualized framework for

social skills assessment, intervention, and generalization. The School Psychology Review, 28(1), 84-103.

 

Susan Sheridan highlights the need for a stronger connection between social skills assessment and intervention, and implies that strengthening this connection will lead to greater generalization of skills to various real life situations for children.  The steps involved in her ecological assessment include selecting social skills that are meaningful within the student’s social settings and assessing prominent features within these social environments.  She strongly recommends a multimethod, multisource, and multisetting assessment, with the acknowledgement of the dynamic nature of social environments. 

The goals of Sheridan’s comprehensive social skills assessment model are to accurately identify behaviors and skills that are important within the child’s social environments; determine expectations for behavior in these contexts; analyze conditions within the environment that precipitate, reinforce, discourage, or extinguish behaviors; identify the child’s skill competencies and deficits in relation to the previously identified important social behaviors, examine the functions of these behaviors in naturalistic settings, contribute to the development of effective social interventions, and measure outcomes in terms of meaningfulness to the individual within relevant social situations and environments.

 

Definition and Measurement of Social Competence in Empirical Studies

 

            These empirical research articles serve as examples of how social competence is defined and measured in studies related to social competence and in other similar constructs, such as social skills.

 

Gottman, J., Gonso, J., & Rasmussen, B. (1975). Social interaction, social competence, and

            friendship in children. Child Development, 46, 709-718.

 

            In 1975, Gottman, Gonso, and Rasmussen examined the covariation of social skills and social behaviors with friendship choices.  Their extensive social skills assessment consisted of six methods: labeling emotions of facial expressions, a referential-communication accuracy word game, perspective-taking tasks, blindfolded listener tasks, making friends task, and giving help task.  In the final two assessments, the individual was asked to pretend that the experimenter was a new student in school or a classmate who needed help.  A classroom behavior assessment was also completed, and observations were coded.

 

Pellegrini, D.S. (1985). Social cognition and competence in middle childhood. Child

Development, 56(1), 253-264.

 

            In this study of interpersonal understanding, means-ends problem-solving, and social competence, social competence is measured through a revised version of Lambert & Bower’s (1961) “Class Play” measure, in which students assign their classmates to 15 positive and 15 negative roles in a hypothetical class play.  Behavioral competence was also assessed, via the Devereux Elementary School Behavior Rating Scale (Spivack & Swift, 1967).  This scale looks at disruptive-oppositional behavior, poor comprehension and disattention, cooperative-initiating behavior, and performance anxiety.  Interpersonal understanding was assessed by showing participants filmstrips of interpersonal dilemmas and interviewing them about the nature of people in general, close friendships, and peer-group relations as they related to the situations in the filmstrips.  Shure and Spivack’s (1972) Means-Ends Problem Solving Test was also used, which presented participants with the setup and outcome of problematic social situations and asked them to fill in the middle.

 

Rotheram, M.J. (1987). Children’s social and academic competence. Journal of Educational

Research, 80(4), 206-211.

 

            Rotheram defined social competence as academic competence and positive relationships with peers and teachers.  He claimed that competence with teachers likely requires different skills from competence with peers or in academics.  Measures of social competence included Shure and Spivack’s (1974) Interpersonal Problem-Solving Test; Rotheram’s (1980, 1982) Children’s Assertion Quiz, which is a self-report multiple choice measure assessing a child’s passive, aggressive, and assertive responses to interpersonal problem situations; Behavioral Effectiveness with peers (Rotheram, 1980), which consisted of observing children in a group project situation; peer ratings; teacher ratings; and behavioral observations of interactions with the teacher.

 

Merrell, K.W., Cedeno, C.J., & Johnson, E.R. (1993). The relationship between social behavior

and self-concept in school settings. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 293-298.

 

            Merrell and his colleagues employed his newly-developed School Social Behavior Scales (SSBS) to examine the relationship between social behavior and self-concept in school settings.  The results of this study provided concurrent criteria related validity for the SSBS, specifically showing that positive social behaviors (those on the social competence scale) were related to self-concept, and that these behaviors were related to self-concept to a greater degree than negative social behaviors (behaviors on the antisocial behavior scale).

 

Merrell, K.W., & Popinga, M.R. (1994). The alliance of adaptive behavior and social

competence: An examination of relationships between the Scales of Independent Behavior and the Social Skills Rating System. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 15(1), 39-47.

 

            Merrell and Popinga discuss the importance of adaptive behavior in the diagnoses of mental retardation, and point out that social competence is closely related to this construct.  In comparing independent behavior to social skills, they employ the Scales of Independent Behavior (Bruininks, Woodcock, Weatherman, & Hill, 1984) and the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS; Gresham & Elliott, 1990).  The SSRS consists of parent, teacher, and student rating scales as measures of social skills (cooperation, assertion, self-control, and responsibility), problem behaviors (externalizing problems, internalizing problems, and hyperactivity), and academic competence.

 

Rydell, A.M., Hagekull, B., Bohlin, G. (1997). Measurement of two social competence aspects

in middle childhood. Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 824-833.

 

            While definitions of social competence can include social skills, behaviors, and social outcomes such as peer acceptance, Rydell and his colleagues chose to define social competence in their study as social skills and prosocial behaviors.  Their social competence inventory consisted of items targeting social skills and behaviors indicative of empathy, altruism, generosity, helpfulness, social participation, initiative taking, cooperation, and conflict handling.  Social behaviors were also observed and assessed with White and Watts’ (1973) Social Behavior Checklist.  Results of this study supported the notion of two social competence aspects: prosocial orientation and social initiative.

 

Landsheer, H.A., Maassen, G.H., & Bisschop, P. (1998). Can higher grades result in fewer

friends? A reexamination of the relation between academic and social competence. Adolescence, 33(129), 185-191.

 

            Landsheer and colleagues examined the notion that children with high academic competence sometimes experience lowered social competence (overachiever theory) as well as the idea that social and academic competence are positively correlated (global competence theory).  Their assessment of social competence was simply a sociometric measure completed by every student in a class who judged whether each of their classmates was more, the same, or less competent at making friends than they were.


References

 

Cillessen, A.H.N., & Bellmore, A.D. (1999). Accuracy of social self-perceptions and peer

competence in middle childhood. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 45(4), 650-676.

 

Damon, W. (1998). Handbook of Child Psychology. New York: J. Wiley.

 

Dodge, K.A., Pettit, G.S., McClaskey, C.L., & Brown, M.M. (1986). Social competence in

children. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 51(2, Serial No. 213).

 

Dodge, K.A., Asher, S.R., & Parkhurst, J.T. (1989). Social life as a goal-coordination task. In C.

Ames and R. Ames (Eds.), Research on Motivation in Education. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.

 

Gottman, J., Gonso, J., & Rasmussen, B. (1975). Social interaction, social competence, and

            friendship in children. Child Development, 46, 709-718.

 

Gresham, F.M., & Reschly, D.J. (1987). Dimensions of social competence: Method factors in the

assessment of adaptive behavior, social skills, and peer acceptance. Journal of School Psychology, 25, 367-381.

 

Hughes, J.N., & Hall, R.J. (1987). Proposed model for the assessment of children’s social

competence. Professional School Psychology, 2(4), 247-260.

 

Kennedy, J.H. (1988). Issues in the identification of socially incompetent children. School

Psychology Review, 17(2), 276-288.

 

Ladd, G.W. (1999). Peer relationships and social competence during early and middle childhood.

Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 333-359.

 

Landsheer, H.A., Maassen, G.H., & Bisschop, P. (1998). Can higher grades result in fewer

friends? A reexamination of the relation between academic and social competence. Adolescence, 33(129), 185-191.

 

Merrell, K.W. (1989). Concurrent relationships between two behavioral rating scales for

teachers: An examination of self-control, social competence, and social behavioral adjustment. Psychology in the Schools, 26, 267-271.

 

Merrell, K.W. (1993). Using behavioral rating scales to assess social skills and antisocial

behavior in school settings: Development of the school social behavior scales. School Psychology Review, 22(1), 115-133.

 

Merrell, K.W., Cedeno, C.J., & Johnson, E.R. (1993). The relationship between social behavior

and self-concept in school settings. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 293-298.

 

Merrell, K.W., & Popinga, M.R. (1994). The alliance of adaptive behavior and social

competence: An examination of relationships between the scales of independent behavior and the social skills rating system. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 15(1), 39-47.

 

Michelson, L., Sugai, D.P., Wood, R.P., & Kazdin, A.E. (1993). Social Skills Assessment and

Training with Children: An Empirically Based Handbook. New York: Plenum Press.

 

Pellegrini, D.S. (1985). Social cognition and competence in middle childhood. Child

Development, 56(1), 253-264.

 

Pellegrini, A.D. (2000). The Child at School: Interaction with Peers and Teachers. London:

Arnold.

 

Rotheram, M.J. (1987). Children’s social and academic competence. Journal of Educational

Research, 80(4), 206-211.

 

Rubin, K.H., & Rose-Krasnor, L. (1992). Interpersonal problem solving and social competence

in children. In V.B. Van Hasselt and Michel Hersen, Handbook of Social Development: A Lifespan Perspective. New York: Plenum Press, 283-323.

 

Rydell, A.M., Hagekull, B., Bohlin, G. (1997). Measurement of two social competence aspects

in middle childhood. Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 824-833.

 

Schneider, B.H. (1993). Children's social competence in context : the contributions of family,

school and culture. New York: Pergamon Press.

 

Sheridan, S.M., Hungelmann, A., & Maughan, D.P. (1999). A contextualized framework for

social skills assessment, intervention, and generalization. The School Psychology Review, 28(1), 84-103.


PRESENTATION OUTLINE

 

Social Competence
in Children

 

Kelly Knapp

CEP 900

December 10, 2001

 

Importance to School Psychologists

«  Poor peer relationships predict long-term mental health problems, truancy, and school dropout.

 

«  Identifying children with low social competence for interventions.

«    Assessing the effectiveness of individual and school-wide interventions.

 

Definitions

«  Social

­Living together in communities

 

«  Competence

­The state or quality of being adequately qualified; ability

­   A specific range of skill, knowledge, or ability.

 

Social Competence

«   “An organism’s capacity to interact effectively with its environment.” (White, 1959)

«   “A judgment by another that an individual has behaved effectively.” (McFall, 1982)

«   “Attainment of relevant social goals in specified social contexts, using appropriate means and resulting in positive developmental outcomes.” (Ford, 1982)

«   “The ability to achieve personal goals in social interaction while simultaneously maintaining positive relationships with others over time and across settings.”                   (Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992)

 

Aspects of Social Competence

«  Social skills        

«  Adaptive behavior

«  Peer acceptance

          (outcome)

«  Relationships and interactions

­Initiation

­Maintenance and repair

­Conclusion

Assessment

Behavioral Observations

«  Natural setting

«  Structured, lab setting

“An organism’s capacity to

interact effectively with its environment.”

(White, 1959)

 

Assessment

Behavioral Rating Scales or Checklists

«  Parent

«  Teacher

“A judgment by another that an individual

has behaved effectively.” (McFall, 1982)

 

“social judgment about the general quality of an individual’s performance in a given situation.” (Hops, 1983)

 

Assessment

School Social Behavior Scales

Social Competence Scale

«  Interpersonal skills

«  Self-management skills

«  Academic skills

 

Assessment

Outcome: Peer Acceptance

«  Sociometric choice

«  Sociometric rating scales

 

“...resulting in positive developmental outcomes.”

(Ford, 1982)

 

“...maintaining positive relationships with others

over time and across settings.”

(Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992)

 

Ecological Assessment

Multi-method, multi-source, multi-setting

 

«  Behavioral observation in several settings (i.e., academic, playground, home)

«  Behavior rating scales completed by several adults (i.e., teachers, parents)

«  Interviews with referring teacher, parents, student

«    Objective self-report data