In Teens, Poor Social Skills Signal Emotional And Behavioral Problems

May 27, 1998

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have found that a teenager's social role functioning--how well or poorly that young person interacts with family and peers, participates in school, and controls behavior--can reveal the presence or absence of psychiatric disorders much earlier than can traditional indicators such as school failure and contact with police, which appear after problems have already become entrenched. Social role dysfunction can also help indicate whether a teen's psychiatric problems will be acted out as behavior problems or turned inward to cause emotional difficulties.

The findings were reported in the June 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology.

Lead author Anne W. Riley, PhD, assistant professor, Health Policy and Management, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said, "Currently, less than half the teens with major psychiatric problems are identified and given help for emotional problems. This means that many people with psychiatric disorders, especially depression and anxiety, are not even identified until they are adults, after they have had a second or third episode of the disorder." Riley also noted that treatments now aimed at troubled teens are usually focused more on squelching problem behaviors than getting youngsters back on track socially and emotionally.

The researchers looked at 288 carefully screened youths, dividing them into four major groups: those with emotional (or "internalizing") disorders, those with disruptive (or "externalizing") disorders, those with both, and those with no emotional or behavioral problems.

They found that those with disruptive disorders, in general, had the worst academic performance, the poorest relationships with family and friends, and the poorest "self management" (taking responsibility, planning, controlling anger, and being on time) of the teenagers studied.

Boys with any type of psychiatric disorder were found to have significant academic problems, as well as more trouble in relationships with family and friends, and less acceptance by peers than did healthy boys. There were no consistent, large differences in social functioning between disordered and healthy girls.

The researchers also found differences between genders among the teenagers studied. On average, girls with psychiatric disorders scored better than the boys with disorders on every measure of social functioning except organized activities, this last perhaps reflecting the boys' greater participation in team sports.

These differences in teenager's everyday behavior at school, home, and in the community may help explain why boys are more likely to be identified as having emotional or behavioral problems that need treatment.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.
-end-


Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.