Interpersonal Skills/Social Competence

Interpersonal skills, also known as social competence, refer to the ability to interact positively and get along well with others. Social competence is defined as a set of positive social skills necessary to get along well with others and function constructively in groups, including, a) respecting and expressing appreciation for others; b) being able to work and communicate well with others and listen to others' ideas; c) demonstrating context-appropriate behavior that is consistent with social norms; and) using a range of skills or processes aimed at resolving conflict.

A recent pilot study on a nationally representative sample of adolescents found that social competence is negatively related to outcomes such as substance use, depression, getting in fights, and delinquency and positively related to good grades (Lippman et al., forthcoming). The National Research Council identifies lack of interpersonal skills in middle childhood and adolescence – “poor social skills: impulsive, aggressive, passive, withdrawal” -- as a risk factor for depression (National Research Council, 2009, see Table E-1, Appendix E).

By Urban Institute & ChildTrends


Surveys / Assessments


Sources Cited

Lippman, L., Guzman, L., & Moore, K. A. Measuring Flourishing Among Youth: Findings from the Flourishing Children Positive Indicators Project.  Webinar. July 2012. 

National Research Council. Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009.