Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Validation of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level as a Measure of Positive Social Behavior and Conduct Problems

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Validation of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level as a Measure of Positive Social Behavior and Conduct Problems

Article excerpt

With their well-established predictive power for negative long-term outcomes such as delinquency, poor social functioning, incarceration, substance abuse, violence towards others, and school drop-out, the early identification of social skills deficits and often co-occurring conduct problems is crucial (Coie, 1990; Loeber & Farrington, 2000; Olson & Hoza, 1993; Parker & Asher, 1987; Walker & Sprague, 1999). Antisocial behavior results in antisocial attitudes, lack of school readiness, peer and teacher rejection, lack of emotion regulation skills, difficulty following school rules, and severe tantrum behavior in the short term (Walker & Sprague, 1999). Walker and Sprague's research in the school setting has found that teacher's ratings of social skills are one of three important measures to identify a child at-risk for delinquency, with the other two being the discipline record of the child and negative behavior displayed toward peers during recess. With these three measures, 80% of their sample of antisocial fifth graders were correctly classified as being arrested or not arrested five years later as tenth graders. Certainly there are adolescents who are arrested that do not have this early at-risk background, but these young adults do not tend to have the same severely violent and negative outcomes into adulthood (Walker & Sprague, 1999). These results point to the importance not only of early identification and intervention, but of accurate teacher ratings of social skills deficits.

In a review of the literature between 1991 and 2002 on behavior problems in low-income children, Qi and Kaiser (2003) found that behavior problems have been noted in 16-30% of children in Head Start. In a transactional model proposed by the authors, social skills deficits was one of the risk factors associated with behavior problems (Qi & Kaiser, 2003). Likewise, Campbell (1994) found that boys who were "hard-to-manage" during the preschool years also had behavior problems two years later, and that these difficulties were also related to poor social competence according to ratings by mother, father, teacher, and the boys themselves. More recently, Keane and Calkins (2004) found that parent ratings of two-year-olds' externalizing behavior predicted both social skill level and externalizing behavior rated by teachers and peer reports of social behavior in Kindergarten. Clearly, the level of social skills and conduct problems exhibited early on has lasting impact in later school years.

Preschoolers, however, present some major assessment obstacles due to their limited ability to provide accurate self- and peer-reports (Foster, Inderbitzen, & Nangle, 1993). Alternate methods are not without their own particular concerns. For instance, the ability of direct observation to gather representative portrayals of low occurrence behaviors such as aggression has been questioned, and analogue measures have come under increasing scrutiny as well (Bierman & Welsh, 2000; Foster et al., 1993). As a result, standardized teacher ratings are commonly recommended measures of social skills and conduct problems with preschoolers.

Consequently, comprehensive teacher rating measures, such as the Social Skills Rating System for Teachers, Preschool Level (SSRS-T; Gresham & Elliot, 1990) have generated much research and clinical interest because of their purported ability to assess multiple dimensions of children's social behavior and conduct problems in a cost efficient manner. Our review of the literature found a fair degree of support for the psychometric soundness of the SSRS, but also raised some unanswered questions. In general, the SSRS is considered to be a comprehensive measure of social skills in children (Demaray et al., 1995) that is time-efficient for teachers (Bramlett, Dielmann, & Smithson, 1999). One advantage of the SSRS is that the items are primarily behavioral, requiring a low level of inference on the part of the teacher (Benes, 1994). …

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