Depressive Symptoms
from Kindergarten to Early
School Age: Longitudinal
Associations with Social Skills
Decits and Peer Victimization
Sonja Perren and Françoise D. Alsaker
Depressive symptoms in children are associated with social skills decits and
problems with peers. We propose a model which suggests dierent mecha-
nisms for the impact of decits in self-oriented social skills (assertiveness and
social participation) and other-oriented social skills (pro-social, cooperative
and non-aggressive behaviors) on childrens depressive symptoms. We hypoth-
esized that decits in self-oriented social skills have a direct impact on children’s
70 Social Work and Child Services
depressive symptoms because these children have non-rewarding interactions
with peers, whereas the impact of decits in other-oriented social skills on de-
pressive symptoms is mediated through negative reactions from peers such as
peer victimization.
378 kindergarten children (163 girls) participated at two assessments (Age at
T1: M = 5.8, T2: M = 7.4). Teachers completed questionnaires on children’s
social skills at T1. Teacher reports on peer victimization and depressive symp-
toms were assessed at both assessment points.
Our study partially conrmed the suggested conceptual model. Decits in self-
oriented social skills signicantly predicted depressive symptoms, whereas de-
cits in other-oriented social skills were more strongly associated with peer vic-
timization. Longitudinal associations between other-oriented social skills and
depressive symptoms were mediated through peer victimization.
e study emphasizes the role of decits in self-oriented social skills and peer
victimization for the development of internalizing disorders.
Decades of research have shown that depressive symptoms in children are as-
sociated with social skills decits and problems with peers [1-4]. Nevertheless,
not much is known about the mechanisms underlying these associations. In the
current paper a conceptual model is tested which tries to explain the interdepen-
dent eects of social skills and peer relations on the development of depressive
Generally speaking social skills have been dened as behaviors that aect in-
terpersonal relations [5]. In our work, we conceive of social competence as the
ability to use social interactions to satisfy ones own goals and needs while at the
same time considering the needs and goals of others. We dierentiate between
two dimensions: (a) self-oriented social skills which are aimed at satisfying ones
own needs (e.g. assertiveness and social participation) and other-oriented social
skills which are aimed at satisfying anothers goals and needs (e.g. pro-social, co-
operative and non-aggressive behavior) [6]. We assume that these dimensions
operate through dierent mechanisms on depressive symptoms. First, we sug-
gest that decits in self-oriented social skills are directly associated with childrens

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