Faculty Articles

The Validity of Role Play Tests for Assessing Social Skills in Children

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Behavior Therapy





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A correlational study was conducted in an effort to examine the validity and reliability of role play tests for assessing social skills in children. Twenty-two male and twenty female elementary school children, ranging in age from 8–10 years, responded to role play scenarios involving social interactions. In addition to the role play procedure, a number of other assessment strategies were utilized: (1) observations of behavior in naturalistic settings, (2) sociometric ratings, and (3) teachers' ratings. Results did not support the validity of the role play test. Correlations between role play performance and criterion measures were generally quite low. Test-retest reliability of the role play tests also was unacceptable. Further, results indicated that while several significant relationships were found between children's sociometric scores and teachers' ratings of interpersonal behavior, little association was found between these measures and global ratings of friendliness in role play and in vivo situations. Results are discussed in terms of the validity and utility of role play tests for children, the relationship of these data to previous research in social skills assessment, and the heuristic value of examining research concerning children's interpersonal functioning from developmental and social psychological perspectives.


This article is based on the senior author's Masters Thesis, conducted under the direction of the second and third authors, and submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Science degree. Portions of this paper were presented at the 87th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, New York, NY, September, 1979. The authors thank Denise A. Herbol, Curtis Gibson, Steven Stern, Denise Reid, Ronald Barbati, and Carla Costanza for their varied contributions throughout this project and Susan Giusti, Cheryl Kubelick, Bill McDonald, and Tim Rusnak of the Falk Elementary School for their extensive cooperation

Requests for reprints should be sent to Michel Hersen, Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261.

Copyright © 1981 Published by Elsevier Ltd.



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