Assessing Social Dysfunction: The Contributions of Laboratory and Performance-Based Measures

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Reviewed research studies in which laboratory and performance-based measures were used with success to identify problematic social interaction patterns and social skills deficits associated with poor peer relationships. However, the clinical utility of these measures remains an empirical question. In this article, social competence is conceptualized as an organizational construct, reflecting the child's capacity to integrate behavioral, cognitive, and affective skills to adapt flexibly to diverse social contexts and demands. Correspondingly, performance-based measures of social functioning that include complex social interaction stimuli and require integrative responses appear more likely to demonstrate social validity than measures focused on isolated behaviors or cognitions. Research studies are reviewed that involve observations of children in three types of analogue social situations: play groups, friendship pairs, and social-challenge situations. In addition, studies that have utilized performance-based measures to screen and evaluate children for social skills training programs are reviewed. We conclude that performance-based measures are unlikely to be useful in determining whether a child is experiencing social dysfunction but may enhance the clinical analysis of the nature of the child's social difficulties. We identify gaps in the current knowledge regarding the clinical utility of performance-based measures of social dysfunction, along with directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-539
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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