Social or Relationship Skills

Social or relationship skills, also called social competence, encompass the ability of children and youth to relate to, have compassion for, and connect with others.  

These skills are encompassed under three of the five areas of social and emotional learning described by the Collaboration for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), under two of the four domains of personal and social assets that the National Research Council (NRC) describes as protective factors, and within the 6 C’s that thriving youth develop (competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, compassion, and contribution).  Whatever way they are described, they are part of social, emotional, and behavioral development that youth must accomplish to have healthy connections and relationships with their families, peers, and other adults.  These developmental changes can be difficult for youth to manage and take some experience to master.

The NRC identifies social and relationship skills such as good conflict resolution skills, prosocial and culturally sensitive values, connectedness (good relationships with parents, peers, and some other adults, and ability to navigate multiple cultural contexts as protective factors that facilitate well-being of youth in the present and help in successful transition to the future.  Their asset development approach indicates that more assets are better, assets tend to work in combination with each other with stronger assets making up for weaker ones, and that having assets across the four assets areas (physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional, and social development) better facilitates positive youth development serving as protective factors against engaging in risky behaviors.

Strategies and programs, and therefore assessments, may focus on reducing or preventing problematic behaviors or on helping children and youth develop the skills and assets to better manage how they relate to others.  It is important to consider the focus of your program when selecting an assessment tool.  It is also important to consider how assets might work together thus measuring more than one indicator may be important to demonstrating the improvements children and youth have made in your program.

Indicators of social or relationship skills include conflict resolutions skills, cooperation skills, negotiation skills, interpersonal skills, empathy, social conscience/altruism, respect for differences, leadership skills, decision-making skills, social problem solving skills, goal-setting, teamwork, and peer refusal skills.

By Urban Institute



Sources Cited

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning website,

National Research Council. Community Programs to Promote Youth Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2002.

Zarrett, N. & Lerner, R. (2008). Ways to promote the positive development of children and youth. Research-to-Results Brief #2008-11. Child Trends.