International Science Index


Discrepant Views of Social Competence and Links with Social Phobia


Adolescents’ biased perceptions about their social competence (SC), whether negatively or positively, serve to influence their socioemotional adjustment such as early feelings of social phobia (nowadays referred to as Social Anxiety Disorder-SAD). Despite the importance of biased self-perceptions in adolescents’ psychosocial adjustment, the extent to which discrepancies between self- and others’ evaluations of one’s SC are linked to social phobic symptoms remains unclear in the literature. This study examined the perceptual discrepancy profiles between self- and peers’ as well as between self- and teachers’ evaluations of adolescents’ SC and the interrelations of these profiles with self-reported social phobic symptoms. The participants were 390 3rd graders (15 years old) of Finnish lower secondary school (50.8% boys, 49.2% girls). In contrast with variable-centered approaches that have mainly been used by previous studies when focusing on this subject, this study used latent profile analysis (LPA), a person-centered approach which can provide information regarding risk profiles by capturing the heterogeneity within a population and classifying individuals into groups. LPA revealed the following five classes of discrepancy profiles: i) extremely negatively biased perceptions of SC, ii) negatively biased perceptions of SC, iii) quite realistic perceptions of SC, iv) positively biased perceptions of SC, and v) extremely positively biased perceptions of SC. Adolescents with extremely negatively biased perceptions and negatively biased perceptions of their own SC reported the highest number of social phobic symptoms. Adolescents with quite realistic, positively biased and extremely positively biased perceptions reported the lowest number of socio-phobic symptoms. The results point out the negatively and the extremely negatively biased perceptions as possible contributors to social phobic symptoms. Moreover, the association of quite realistic perceptions with low number of social phobic symptoms indicates its potential protective power against social phobia. Finally, positively and extremely positively biased perceptions of SC are negatively associated with social phobic symptoms in this study. However, the profile of extremely positively biased perceptions might be linked as well with the existence of externalizing problems such as antisocial behavior (e.g. disruptive impulsivity). The current findings highlight the importance of considering discrepancies between self- and others’ perceptions of one’s SC in clinical and research efforts. Interventions designed to prevent or moderate social phobic symptoms need to take into account individual needs rather than aiming for uniform treatment. Implications and future directions are discussed.

[1] Chen X, Liu M, Rubin KH, Cen GZ, Gao X, Li D. Sociability and prosocial orientation as predictors of youth adjustment: A seven-year longitudinal study in a Chinese sample. Int J Behav Dev. 2002;26(2):128–36.
[2] Childs HF, Schneider HG, Dula CS. Adolescent adjustment: Maternal depression and social competence. Int J Adolesc Youth (Internet). 2001;9(2–3):175–84.
[3] Bergeron L, Valla J-P, Smolla N, Piche G, Berthiaume C, St-Georges M. Correlates of depressive disorders in the Quebec general population 6 to 14 years of age. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2007;35(3):459–74.
[4] Brown BB, Von Bank H, Steinberg L. Smoke in the looking glass: Effects of discordance between self- and peer rated crowd affiliation on adolescent anxiety, depression and self-feelings. J Youth Adolesc. 2008;37(10):1163–77.
[5] Whitton SW, Larson JJ, Hauser ST. Depressive symptoms and bias in perceived social competence among young adults. J Clin Psychol. 2008;64(7):791–805.
[6] Muris P, Merckelbach H, Damsma E. Threat Perception Bias in Nonreferred, Socially Anxious Children. J Clin Child Psychol (Internet). 2000;29(3):348–59.
[7] Uhrlass DJ, Schofield CA, Coles ME, Gibb BE. Self-perceived competence and prospective changes in symptoms of depression and social anxiety. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2009;40(2):329–37.
[8] Brendgen M, Little TD, Krappmann L. Rejected children and their friends: A shared evaluation of friendship quality? Merrill Palmer Q. 2000;46(1):45–70.
[9] Brendgen M, Vitaro F, Turgeon L, Poulin F. Assessing aggressive and depressed children’s social relations with classmates and friends: A matter of perspective. Vol. 30, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2002. p. 609–24.
[10] Brendgen M, Vitaro F, Turgeon L, Poulin F, Wanner B. Is there a dark side of positive illusions? Overestimation of social competence and subsequent adjustment in aggressive and nonaggressive children. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2004;32(3):305–20.
[11] Cillessen AHN, Bellmore AD. Social skills and interpersonal perception in early and middle childhood. In: Blackwell handbook of childhood social development. 2002. p. 356–74.
[12] Larouche M-N, Galand B, Bouffard T. The illusion of scholastic incompetence and peer acceptance in primary school. Eur J Psychol Educ. 2008;23(1):25–39.
[13] Patterson CJ, Kupersmidt JB, Griesler PC. Children’s Perceptions of Self and of Relationships with Others as a Function of Sociometric Status. Child Dev. 1990;61(5):1335–49.
[14] Panak WF, Garber J. Role of aggression, rejection, and attributions in the prediction of depression in children. Dev Psychopathol (Internet). 1992;4(1):145–65.
[15] Baumeister RF, Bushman BJ, Campbell WK. Self-Esteem, Narcissism, and Aggression: Does Violence Result From Low Self-Esteem or From Threatened Egotism? Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2000;9(1):26–9.
[16] Zakriski AL, Coie JD. A Comparison of Aggressive-Rejected and Nonaggressive-Rejected Children’s Interpretations of Self-Directed and Other-Directed Rejection. Child Dev (Internet). 1996;67:1048–70.
[17] McGrath EP, Repetti RL. A longitudinal study of children’s depressive symptoms, self-perceptions, and cognitive distortions about the self. J Abnorm Psychol (Internet). 2002;111(1):77–87.
[18] Hughes JN, Cavell TA, Prasad-Gaur A. A Positive View of Peer Acceptance in Aggressive Youth Risk for Future Peer Acceptance. J Sch Psychol (Internet). 2001;39(3):239–52.
[19] Spence SH, Donovan C, Brechman-Toussaint M. The treatment of childhood social phobia: the effectiveness of a social skills training-based, cognitive-behavioural intervention, with and without parental involvement. J Child Psychol Psychiatry (Internet). 2000;41(6):713–26.
[20] Renk K, Phares V. Cross-informant ratings of social competence in children and adolescents. Clin Psychol Rev. 2004;24(2):239–54.
[21] Anderson-Butcher D, Iachini AL, Amorose AJ. Initial reliability and validity of the Perceived Social Competence Scale. Res Soc Work Pract (Internet). 2007;18:47–54.
[22] Junttila N, Voeten M, Kaukiainen A, Vauras M. Multisource Assessment of Children’s Social Competence. Educ Psychol Meas (Internet). 2006;66(5):874–95.
[23] Junttila, Niina; Niemi, M. Päivi, Laakkonen, Eero; Ranta K. Modeling the interrelations of adolescents’ loneliness, social anxiety and social phobia. Sci Ann Psychol Soc North Greece. 2010;8:69–99.
[24] Burstein M, He JP, Kattan G, Albano AM, Avenevoli S, Merikangas KR. Social phobia and subtypes in the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement: Prevalence, correlates, and comorbidity. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011;50(9):870–80.
[25] American Psychiatric Association. American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) (Internet). American Journal of Psychiatry. 2013. 991 p.
[26] Voncken MJ, Bögels SM, Peeters F. Specificity of interpretation and judgemental biases in social phobia versus depression. Psychol Psychother Theory, Res Pract (Internet). 2007;80(3):443–53.
[27] Stein MB, Stein DJ. Social anxiety disorder. Lancet. 2008;371(9618):1115–25.
[28] Beesdo K, Bittner A, Pine DS, Stein MB, Höfler M, Lieb R, et al. Incidence of Social Anxiety Disorder and the Consistent Risk for Secondary Depression in the First Three Decades of Life. Arch Gen Psychiatry (Internet). 2007;64(8):903.
[29] Kashdan TB, Herbert JD. Social anxiety disorder in childhood and adolescence: current status and future directions. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2001;4(1):37–61.
[30] Connor KM, Davidson JRT, Erik Churchill L, Sherwood A, Foa E, Weisler RH. Psychometric properties of the social phobia inventory (SPIN). New self- rating scale. Br J Psychiatry. 2000;176(APR.):379–86.
[31] Ranta K, Kaltiala-Heino R, Rantanen P, Tuomisto MT, Marttunen M. Screening social phobia in adolescents from general population: The validity of the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) against a clinical interview. Eur Psychiatry. 2007;22(4):244–51.
[32] Ranta K, Kaltiala-Heino R, Koivisto A-M, Tuomisto MT, Pelkonen M, Marttunen M. Age and gender differences in social anxiety symptoms during adolescence: The Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) as a measure. Psychiatry Res (Internet). 2007;153(3):261–70.
[33] Ranta K. Social phobia among Finnish adolescents. Tampere: Tampere: University Press; 2008.
[34] Muthén L, Muthén B. Mplus (6th ed.). Los Angeles. 2010.
[35] McKnight, P. E., McKnight, K. M., Sidani, S., & Figueredo AJ. Missing Data: A Gentle Introduction. New York, NY: Guilford; 2007. 164-166 p.
[36] Wang M, Bodner TE. Growth mixture modeling: Identifying and predicting unobserved subpopulations with longitudinal data. Organ Res Methods. 2007;10(4):635–56.
[37] Akaike H. Factor analysis and AIC. Psychometrika. 1987;52(3):317–32.
[38] Curran PJ, West SG, Finch JF. The robustness of test statistics to nonnormality and specification error in confirmatory factor analysis. Psychol Methods (Internet). 1996;1(1):16–29.
[39] Muthén B. Statistical and Substantive Checking in Growth Mixture Modeling: Comment on Bauer and Curran (2003). Psychol Methods (Internet). 2003;8(3):369–77.
[40] Harter S. Developmental differences in the nature of self-representations: Implications for the understanding, assessment, and treatment of maladaptive behavior. Cognit Ther Res. 1990;14(2):113–42.
[41] Taylor SE, Brown JD. Illusion and well-being: a social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychol Bull. 1988;103(2):193–210.
[42] Semrud-Clikeman M. Social competence in children. Social Competence in Children. 2007. 1-299 p.