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An integrative approach to the study of social competence in adolescence

  • Lisa A. Lenhart (a1) and David L. Rabiner (a2)


Few studies have examined social competence in adolescents utilizing multiple sources of data, or have examined the role of the internal representation of others in terms of social problem-solving skills and social competence. The purpose of this study was to examine how constructs within social-cognitive (i.e., the problem-solving skill involving perspective integration) and object relations theory (i.e., internal representation of others) are related to adolescents' social adjustment assessed via self-report, teacher ratings, and behavioral observations. Results indicated that adolescents (N = 56) with more advanced problem-solving skills reported fewer behavioral/emotional problems, were rated as less aggressive by teachers, and were rated as more competent in behavioral interactions. Furthermore, adolescents' problem-solving skills appeared to mediate the relationship between the representation of others and behavioral ratings of competence. These results suggest that a broader understanding of social competence in adolescence can be attained by including information on the internal representation of others, which is consistent with the approach that involves integrating concepts from different theoretical viewpoints (i.e., social cognitive and object relations).


Corresponding author

Lisa Lenhart, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center, Box 2917, Durham, NC 27710


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