Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Adolescence

pp 2751-2759


Social Competence

  • Melanie A. DirksAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, McGill University Email author 
  • , Teresa A. TreatAffiliated withUniversity of Iowa
  • , V. Robin WeersingAffiliated withSan Diego State University/University of California


Social competence is vitally important for adolescents. Social difficulties experienced during youth, such as rejection by peers, predict significant difficulties later in life, including dropping out of school, criminality, and psychological disorders (Parker and Asher 1987). Concurrently, poor social functioning has been implicated in the maintenance of a number of psychological problems, including internalizing difficulties such as depression (e.g., Rudolph et al. 2000) and externalizing symptoms such as aggressive behavior (e.g., Dodge et al. 1985; Gaffney and McFall 1981). These associations lend urgency to the development of valid theoretical and measurement models of youth social competence. This essay outlines current thinking concerning definitions of this construct and the types of factors associated with variability in social competence. Measures of social competence are placed within this theoretical framework, and implications for intervention are discussed ...

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