Social competence among urban minority youth entering middle school: Relationships with alcohol use and antisocial behaviors

Kenneth W. Griffin, Tracy R. Nichols, Amanda S. Birnbaum, Gilbert J. Botvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Social competence is increasingly multidimensional during adolescence as young people encounter a variety of new social situations and can respond with a broad range of appropriate behaviors. However, research on social competence has focused more on children than adolescents. The present study examined the relationships between components of social competence (e.g., assertiveness and social confidence) and adolescent problem behaviors including alcohol use and antisocial behaviors (e.g., aggression and delinquency). A survey was administered to 6th grade students (N = 2,411) entering 20 New York City public and parochial middle schools and again a year later in the 7th grade. Findings indicated that verbal aggression was reported most frequently among students (93%), followed by physical aggression (69%), delinquent behaviors (53%), and alcohol use (16%). Structural equation modeling indicated that while assertiveness was protective in terms of adolescent problem behaviors, social confidence - the level of confidence that students had in initiating social interactions including dating - was associated with greater alcohol use and antisocial behavior both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Additional analyses revealed that social confidence related to the initiation of dating (e.g., asking someone out for a date or having a conversation with a member of the opposite sex) was most strongly correlated with each problem behavior outcome. These findings suggest that social confidence, particularly as it relates to precocious dating behavior during early adolescence, is a risk factor for the early initiation of alcohol use and antisocial behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-106
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


  • Adolescence
  • Aggression
  • Alcohol
  • Competence
  • Puberty
  • Social skills
  • USA


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