Trained Observers’ Ratings of Adolescents’ Social Anxiety and Social Skills within Controlled, Cross-Contextual Social Interactions with Unfamiliar Peer Confederates
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Adolescents at a high-risk for experiencing social anxiety display elevated distress and social skills deficits in social interactions with unfamiliar peers. However, not all adolescents find the same interactions distressing, necessitating an approach that is sensitive to key aspects of the social contexts in which interactions manifest. Along these lines, socially anxious adolescents may display significant impairments within interactions with unfamiliar peers, and yet a core challenge in clinical assessment involves simulating social interactions with unfamiliar peers. Recent work suggests that one can construct cross-contextual interaction tasks using personnel trained to resemble unfamiliar same-age peers. This study examined the psychometric properties of independent observers’ ratings of adolescents’ social anxiety and social skills within these tasks. Eighty-nine adolescents (M = 14.50 years; 30 clinic-referred; 59 community control) and their parents completed reports of adolescent social anxiety on parallel surveys. Adolescents participated in a series of counterbalanced tasks with trained unfamiliar peer confederates. These tasks assessed adolescents’ reactions to interactions with unfamiliar peers within unstructured versus structured social contexts. Two trained observers independently completed behavioral ratings of adolescents using a well-established coding system, and peer confederates completed survey reports about social anxiety for the adolescents with whom they interacted. Observers’ ratings related to informants’ survey reports of adolescent social anxiety and social skills. Observers’ ratings distinguished adolescents on referral status. Observers rated adolescents’ social anxiety highest and social skills lowest during unstructured social contexts, relative to structured social contexts. These findings have important implications for constructing evidence-based, cross-contextual behavioral assessments of adolescents’ social anxiety.
KeywordsAdolescence Behavioral assessment Social anxiety Social skills Unfamiliar peers
This work was supported, in part, by an internal grant from the University of Maryland at College Park (College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean’s Research Initiative) awarded to the last author.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Lara E. Glenn, Lauren M. Keeley, Sebastian Szollos, Hide Okuno, Xuechun Wang, Erica Rausch, Danielle E. Deros, Jeremy N. Karp, Noor Qasmieh, Bridget A. Makol, Tara M. Augenstein, Melanie F. Lipton, Sarah J. Racz, Lindsay Scharfstein, Deborah C. Beidel and Andres De Los Reyes declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Maryland at College Park’s Institutional Review Board declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.
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