Social Competence: Development of an Indicator for Children and Adolescents

Research BriefJun 1 2008

We describe a new measure based on eight parent-reported items designed for use in large nationally representative surveys to assess social competence among children and adolescents 6 to 17 years of age. The measure’s psychometric characteristics were evaluated using data (N = 67,405) from the 2003 (U.S.) National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), a broad cross-sectional random-digit-dial telephone survey sponsored by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau and conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The examination of the dimensional structure suggested that two correlated factors (social skills, behavior problems) best explained the variability in the responses. The fit of a Rasch-family Graded Response Model with constrained discrimination parameters was confirmed for both factors, and no differential item functioning was noted for age or sex of the child. The NSCH Social Competence Scale is an internally valid and reliable survey measure for identifying and discriminating among children with below average social skills and/or above average frequency of behavior problems.