Social Competence: Childhood to Adolescence
Social competence is defined as “the ability to achieve personal goals in social interaction while simultaneously maintaining positive relationships with others over time and across situations” (Rubin & Rose-Krasnor, 1992). It does not typically emerge fully until a later age meaning immaturity is often displayed by young children, but they also have the capability to display maturity. Maturity or immaturity can be observed through specific characteristics such as emotional regulation, perspective taking, distributive justice, displaying of empathy, communicating with peers, social problem solving, prosocial behavior, and gender-role stereotyping from an early age and serve as indicators for adolescent social competence.
One characteristic of a socially competent adolescent is the capability for emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is when a person utilizes strategies “to adjust the intensity or duration of [their] emotional reactions to a comfortable level so [they] can accomplish goals” (Berk, 2009, p. 407). Reactions can be in response to stimuli from others or to the situation one is in (D. Nelson, Class Lecture, SFL 210, Fall 2011). When someone suppresses anger or frustration in response to something a friend or acquaintance does or says they exhibit emotional regulation.
Another characteristic is that of perspective taking, which “enables us to infer others’ thoughts and feelings” (Berk, 2009, p. 444). Someone socially competent in this area may recognize another person sitting alone to be lonely and choose to go to them to keep them company.
Distributive justice is also a characteristic of socially competence. It is specifically a “belief about how to divide material goods fairly”, but in advanced stages when the child is older it leads to “a greater willingness to help, share, and cooperate” (Berk, 2009, p. 508-509). This...