The Measurement of Social Skills in Depression

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2005

22 Pages, Grade: A - (excellent)


Table of Contents


Social Skills and Depression

Communication Asessments
Social Skills Inventory (SSI)
Conversation Skills Rating Scale (CSRS)

Social Behavior
Social Behavior Scale (SBS)
Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SAD)

Interpersonal Problem Solving
Problem Solving Inventory (PSI)
Interpersonal Problem Solving Questionnaire (IPSQ)

Summary and Conclusions


There has been a lot of research concerning the problem of social skill deficits in depression. Social skill deficits are assumed to be an important factor in contributing to the development as well as the maintenance of depression. Conceptually, authors deal with the construct “social skill” quite differently. They use a wide range of self-report and observer-rating scales, assessing different traits and abilities, behavioral tendencies and self-perceptions.

The purpose of this paper is to present a comparison of those different assessment strategies used by researchers and to critically discuss their effectiveness and applicability as well as their validity and limitations. First, a short overview is given on the concept of social skills in depression to provide a framework. I will then present and discuss different operationalizations of social skills and compare measurements and basic findings to present and suggest useful components for future investigations. I will hereby concentrate on self-report and observer-rating assessment techniques. Finally, a summary and conclusion is given.

SoCIaL skills in Depression

Theoretically, there is a difference in the definition of social skills and social competence. Social skill refers to discrete, goal-directed behavior that enables a person to interact effectively (Sheridan and Walker, 1999). Social competence, in contrast, refers to the quality of a person’s interaction as perceived by others (McFall, 1982). Practically, authors do not usually distinguish between those two definitions. It is rather common to target this difference in either assessing self-reports that reflect the person’s own view on his or her social skills, or assessing observer-ratings to reflect social competence. In this paper, I will be using the term social skills because social competence is hardly being used in the depression literature.

According to Goldstein (Goldstein, 1981), appropriate social skills consist of: (1) the ability to organize cognitions and behaviors into an integrated course of action directed toward culturally acceptable social and/or interpersonal goals; and (2) the ability to continuously assess and modify goal-directed behavior to maximize the likelihood of reaching particular goals. Well developed social skills, in addition to reaching one’s goals, can also contribute to the prevention of stress, elicit social support, act as a buffer and minimize interpersonal conflict.

Considering this, the lack of social skills is a potential risk factor for mental health. Joiner (2000) looked at the processes by which depressive persons’ social skill deficits perpetuate the depression in a vicious cycle. This includes provoking schema-consistent negative feedback, excessively seeking reassurance, and chronically avoiding conflict that should be dealt with. The depression literature has investigated this relation between social skill deficits and levels of depression for some decades now. In doing so many different operationalizations of social skills have been used. I investigated the scales that have commonly been used and searched for basic results and problems occurring in the research literature. I divided all the scales being used into three broad categories: communication, social behavior and problem-solving behavior. I will present two tests for each of the three broad categories I found. They illustrate the variety within each category and are accompanied by one study, respectively. This is done to show general findings and to get a broader basis for comparison.

Communication assessments

In this first section of the paper I will present two tests that have been used to investigate the connection between depression and social skills by referring to communication skills. The first one is solely a self-report inventory, whereas the second one can be used both as a self-report and an observer-rating measure.

Social Skills Inventory (SSI)

The SSI was developed by Riggio (Riggio, 1986) and revised by Riggio (1989) It is a 90-item self-report measure for adults (18 and older) in 5-point Likert-type format (“not at all like me” to “exactly like me”). It is designed to assess basic social communication skills for adolescents (age 14 and older) and adults. Social skills are measured in six domains and provide a total score that is indicative of overall social competence. The six subscales contain 15 items each and measure the social and emotional communication skills of expressivity, sensitivity and control. Expressivity refers to skills in communication and expression, sensitivity involves the accurate interpretation of the communicated messages of others, and control refers to skills in regulating communication processes. The SSI takes about 30-45 minutes to complete. Test-Retest reliabilities for the SSI range from .81 to .96 across the subscales, alpha coefficients from .62 to .87. The subscales and the total SSI demonstrate convergent and discriminant validity by showing predictive patterns of correlations with the Affective Communication Test (ACT; Friedman et al., 1980), the Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity (PONS; Rosenthal et al., 1979) and the Public Self-Consciousness, Private Self-Consciousness, and Social Anxiety measures developed by Fenigstein, Scheier and Buss (1975) among others.

SSI subscales and sample items (Riggio, 1989)

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A sample item:

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Previous research with the SSI revealed consistent gender differences on certain dimensions. Women score higher on the Emotional Expressivity and Emotional Sensitivity scale as well as on the Social Expressivity and Social Sensitivity scale. Men, in contrast, score higher on the Emotional Control scale. (Riggio, 1986)

A study by Huprich et al. (2004) investigated whether a person’s social skills are a moderator between the level of interpersonal trait dependency and risk for depression or not. The combination of trait dependency and some dimensions of social skills on the SSI accounted for significantly more variance on the BDI (Beck Depression Inventory; Beck et al., 1961) than did trait dependency alone.

Those dimensions were Social Expressivity, Social Control, Total SSI score and Social Sensitivity. Lower levels of the three first dimensions and higher levels of Social Sensitivity predicted higher levels of depression when used in linear combination with interpersonal dependency, i.e. the level of social skills moderates the dependency-depression link. But they also affected the level of depression independently of the dependency scores. However, the reported correlations are rather modest. To explain this, the authors refer to the nonclinical sample (undergraduate psychology students) and to the fact that the strength of the linkage usually depends upon the measurements used.

Conversation Skills Rating Scale (CSRS)

The CSRS was developed in 1987 by Spitzberg and Hurt and consists of 25 molecular questions and five global social skill ratings concerning motivation, knowledge and skills. The items are rated on a Likert-scale (1= needs much development, 2= needs some development, 3= satisfactory, 4= good, 5= excellent) The molecular questions are divided into four subscales (altercentrism, composure, expressiveness, interaction management). The scale can be completed as a self-report, but also as an observer-rating. Cronbach’s alpha range from .78 to .87 across subscales. (à see appendix for items)


Excerpt out of 22 pages


The Measurement of Social Skills in Depression
Indiana University  (Psychology)
Mood disorders
A - (excellent)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
570 KB
There has been a lot of research concerning the problem of social skill deficits in depression. Social skill deficits are assumed to be an important factor in contributing to the development as well as the maintenance of depression. This paper presents a comparison of different assessment strategies of social skills and discusses their effectiveness and applicability as well as their validity and limitations. Double spaced
Measurement, Social, Skills, Depression, Mood
Quote paper
Fanny Jimenez (Author), 2005, The Measurement of Social Skills in Depression, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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