What is Social Competence? - Addictions and Mental Health Ontario

Social Competence in Adolescents
in Residential Treatment for SUD
2013 Addictions and Mental Health Ontario Conference
Jenepher Lennox Terrion, PhD, University of Ottawa
Sue O'Rielly, CQI Manager, DSYTC
Workshop Objectives
Participants will:
• Understand the meaning of social competence.
• Become aware of research evidence on the social competence of
adolescents in residential treatment and how these compare to
adolescent norms.
• Be introduced to a validated scale which can be used to measure
social competence in adolescents.
• Explore how their own and other participants’ experiences reflect the
research findings.
• Discuss strategies for building social competence with clients in their
own practices.
Overview of Presentation
What is Social Competence?
Social Competence and Substance Abuse: What’s the link?
Research Collaboration between DSYTC and UOttawa
Discussion: Practical implications
Workshop Activity
What is Social Competence?
Social Competence
Social competence = Social skills that
are critical to healthy outcomes in
Social Skills
childhood and later life.
Social skills and peer relations are reciprocal:
– peer relations are the outcome of social skills but also influence the ongoing
development of social skills
• how we communicate influences who our friends are and what they are like and
this, in turn, influences the development of our social skills.
Examples of social competence in children and adolescents:
– academic and task-related competence (e.g. success in school and in developmentally
appropriate activities)
– cooperation with peers (e.g. getting along with others),
– reinforcement of peers’ behaviors (e.g. behaviors that encourage others to continue
what they are doing)
– social initiation behaviors (e.g. inviting others to interact).
Social Competence and Substance Abuse: What’s the link?
Importance of Social Competence
•Several previous studies have shown that youth with good social competence have
lower rates of substance use, depression, delinquency, aggression, and other problem
behaviors (Dalley et al., 1994; Pentz, 1983; Scheier et al., 1999; Sørlie et al., 2008;
Stepp et al., 2011).
Social Competence Deficits
•A study of elementary school youth showed that those scoring poorly on self-reported
and teacher-rated measures of social competence were more likely to initiate
substance use early (Jackson et al. , 1997).
•Previous research has shown that social skills deficits are one of the risk factors for
substance abuse in youth (Gaffney et al., 1998; Griffen et al., 2001; Hover & Gaffney,
1991; Webb & Baer, 1995; Wekerle et al., 2009: Werner, 1986).
Research Questions
• Do youth who attend residential addiction treatment
differ from a normed sample of youth in measures
of social competence?
• Are there gender differences in social competence
among youth who attend residential addiction
Methods: SettingThe Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre
• Agency Mission: ‘to provide youth and families in need with integrated,
evidence-based addiction treatment, delivered by competent professionals
within a caring and compassionate environment’.
• 3-month residential addiction treatment and continuing care program for
adolescents 13-21 years of age based in Ottawa, ON
• Gender segregated treatment, 14 male beds and 10 female beds.
• Core treatment program is the Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach
• Residential programming includes: Individual therapy, group therapy, academic
programming, a contingency management program, prosocial activity, exercise and
healthy nutrition.
• Agency commitment to ongoing quality improvement and continuous learning
including research.
Methods: Recruitment and Measurement
• Recruitment:
– Consecutive clients admitted to the DSYTC between April and October 2012
were included in the study
– Inclusion criteria: Youth remained in treatment for a minimum of 2 weeks
• Measurement:
– The Home & Community Social Behavior Scales (HCSBS)
• 64-item screening and assessment behavior rating scale that has
demonstrated reliability and validity in measuring social competence and
antisocial behavior (this study focused only on social competence)
• Items depict routine or commonly occurring behaviors
• Takes only a few minutes for the Addiction Counsellor to complete
Methods: Home & Community Social Behavior Scales
Social Competence is broken into 2 subscales (each with 16 questions). Behavior
Frequency is described on a 5-point scale from Never to Frequently.
• Peer relations (peer related social adjustment): measures the dynamics of
developing appropriate social relationships with other youth. Item examples are:
• Cooperates with peers.
• Invites peers to participate in activities.
• Will give in or compromise with peers when appropriate.
• Self-management/compliance (adult-related social adjustment): a measure of
how consistently an adolescent is able to meet the expectations of adults who are
in authority. Item examples are:
• Completes chores without being reminded.
• Listens to and carries out directions from parents or supervisors.
• Follows family or community rules.
Client Characteristics
Age (mean, sd)
Times in treatment (mean, sd)
17.6 (1.3) 18.0 (1.9)
1.3 (1.3)
1.4 (0.9)
Age first use alcohol (mean, sd)
12.1 (2.5) 12.8 (1.8)
Age first use drugs (mean, sd)
12.7 (1.4) 13.2 (1.9)
Social Functioning Levels
Home and Community Social Behavior Scale
Social Competence Total (n, %)
At Risk (<20th percentile)
Average (20th to 80th percentile)
High Functioning (>80th percentile)
11 (33)
22 (67)
1 (5)
19 (86)
2 (9)
Self-Management/Compliance (n, %)
At Risk (<20th percentile)
Average (20th to 80th percentile)
High Functioning (>80th percentile)
6 (18.2)
21 (63.6)
6 (18.2)
19 (86)
1 (5)
Peer Relations (n, %)
At Risk (<20th percentile)
Average (20th to 80th percentile)
High Functioning (>80th percentile)
15 (45.5)
18 (55.5)
3 (13.7)
17 (77.3)
2 (9)
HCSBS Peer Relation Levels
Comparing DSYTC Youth Sample by Gender to HCSBS Norms
There is a statistically significant
difference between the genders
(p<0.05) on the Peer Relation Scale as
well as between males in treatment
and the normed sample (p<0.05).
Study Discussion: Implications
Appears to be an association between social competence and male youth attending residential
addiction treatment.
Possible practical implications:
1. Treatment engagement/therapeutic alliance
– Client/therapist relationship, lack of likeability, responsiveness
2. Therapeutic milieu
- Conflict, bullying, disruption, peer issues, rule following
3. Treatment retention
• Consider how having difficulties with social competence may be particularly challenging
for youth attending residential addiction treatment given the social demands of living
with other youth for an extended period of time
4. Post-treatment integration
– Making friends with pro-social peers requires social competence. Research shows that
adolescents in treatment may lack these requisite skills (Dishion et al., 1984).(i.e. ability
to initiate/re-establish and maintain healthy non-using peer relationships)
– Here are some of the things we’ve thought of. We’re interested in your views.
Study Discussion: Implications
There appears to be an association between Social Competence and male youth
attending residential treatment.
Possible Treatment Implications of Low Social Competence:
Treatment engagement/therapeutic alliance i.e. responsiveness
Therapeutic milieu i.e. conflict, bullying, isolation, disruption, rule following
Treatment retention i.e. social demands of living with other youth for 3 months
Post-treatment integration- i.e. ability to initiate/re-establish and maintain healthy
non-using peer relationships.
• Caregiver and family relationships
Workshop Section
Breakout Questions
1. What do you make of the findings and how do they reflect your experience with your
clients? Are there other implications we did not identify?
2. In your experience how does social competence influence post-treatment outcomes?
3. In which ways can your program/agency work to build social competence in your
4. How does the social competence of your clients influence your agency’s ability to
offer treatment effectively? i.e. treatment engagement/retention What strategies can
help mitigate these challenges?
Questions or Comments?
Dalley, M.B., et al. (1994). Teacher-ratings and self ratings of social competency in adolescents with low- and high-depressive
symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 22(4), 477-485
Gaffney, L. R., et al. (1998). Social skills, expectancies, and drinking in adolescents. Addictive Behaviors, 23(5), 587-599.
Griffin, K. W., et al. (2001). Social competence and substance use among rural youth: Mediating role of social benefit expectancies of
use. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30(4), 485-498.
Hover, S., & Gaffney, L. R. (1991). The relationship between social skills and adolescent drinking. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 26, 207-214.
Jackson, C., et al. (1997). The early use of alcohol and tobacco: Its relation to children's competence and parents' behavior. American
Journal of Public Health, 87(3), 359-364.
Pentz, M. A. (1983). Prevention of adolescent substance abuse through social skill development. In T. J. Glynn, C. G. Leukefeld & J. P.
Ludford (Eds.), Preventing Adolescent Drug Abuse: Intervention Strategies (pp. 195-232). Rockville, MD: National Institute on
Drug Abuse.
Scheier, L. et al. (1999). Social skills, competence, and drug refusal efficacy as predictors of adolescent alcohol use. J Drug Educ
Sørlie M., et al. (2008). Social competence and antisocial behavior: continuity and distinctiveness across early adolescence. J Res
Adolesc., 8(1):121–144.
Stepp, S. D., et al. (2011). The Relation Between Adolescent Social Competence and Young Adult Delinquency and Educational
Attainment Among At-Risk Youth: The Mediating Role of Peer Delinquency. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(8), 457-465.
Webb, J. A., & Baer, P. E. (1995). Influence of family disharmony and parental alcohol use on adolescent social skills, self-efficacy, and
alcohol use. Addictive Behaviors, 20(1), 127-135.
Wekerle, C., et al. (2009). Substance use among adolescents in child welfare versus adolescents in the general population: A
comparison of the Maltreatment and Adolescent Pathways (MAP) longitudinal study and the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey
(OSDUS) datasets. London, ON: University of Western Ontario.
Werner, E. (1986). Resilient offspring of alcoholics: A longitudinal study from birth to age 18. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 47, 34-40.

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