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Validation of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level as a measure of positive social behavior and conduct problems.
Abstract:
Evidence for the validity of the Social Skills Rating System for Teachers, Preschool Level (SSRS-T) as a measure of positive social skills and conduct problems was examined in a sample of Head Start preschoolers. One feature of the study was the comparative analysis of the original published factor structure of the Social Skills Scale (i.e., Cooperation, Assertion, and Self-Control subscales) versus the factor structure newly derived by Fantuzzo and colleagues (i.e., Interpersonal Skills, Verbal Assertion, and Self-Control factors). The results revealed that both factor structures were psychometrically sound, with a theoretical advantage to the Fantuzzo factor structure in that these factors potentially measure more distinct aspects of social behavior. However, the Social Skills Scale was found to be both reliable and valid. The utility of the Externalizing subscale of the Problem Behavior Scale was also examined as a brief and low cost measure of conduct problems. This subscale converged with the Aggressive Behavior subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist and was inversely correlated with positive social behavior measures. Overall the SSRS-T, Preschool Level appeared to be a time-efficient means of capturing both positive and negative aspects of social behavior in one instrument.

KEYWORDS: validity; clinical utility; conduct problems; social competence; preschoolers; Head Start

Article Type:
Report
Subject:
Education, Preschool (Study and teaching)
Play schools (Study and teaching)
Interpersonal relations in children (Evaluation)
Psychological tests (Usage)
Authors:
Rich, Erika Carpenter
Shepherd, Elizabeth J.
Nangle, Douglas W.
Pub Date:
05/01/2008
Publication:
Name: Education & Treatment of Children Publisher: West Virginia University Press, University of West Virginia Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Family and marriage; Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 West Virginia University Press, University of West Virginia ISSN: 0748-8491
Issue:
Date: May, 2008 Source Volume: 31 Source Issue: 2
Topic:
Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Canadian Subject Form: Behaviour problems Computer Subject: Company business management
Geographic:
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number:
179048723
Full Text:
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).

The manual for the SSRS-T cites adequate reliability for the Preschool Level. Internal consistency using Cronbach's alpha was .94 for the Social Skills scale (Cooperation = .90, Assertion = .90, Self-Control = .91) and .82 for the Problem Behavior scale (Externalizing = .85, Internalizing = .74) of the SSRS-T (Gresham & Elliott, 1990). Test-retest reliability was not evaluated on the preschool sample, however. Four-week test-retest reliability coefficients were .85 for the Social Skills scale and .84 for the Problem Behaviors scale of the SSRS-T at the elementary level (Gresham & Elliott, 1990). It is important to note that the standardization preschool sample is considered experimental, due to the fact that its representation was lacking and the number of participants was relatively low at approximately 200 (Furlong & Karno, 1994).

More direct efforts to validate the SSRS-T, Preschool Level have also yielded supportive evidence. The SSRS-T was able to discriminate between typically-developing preschoolers and those who were developmentally delayed, diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and enrolled in Head Start (Byrne, Bawden, DeWolfe, & Beattie, 1998; Lyon, Albertus, Birkinbine, & Naibi, 1996; VonBrock Treuting & Elliott, 1997), demonstrating concurrent validity. With respect to evidence supporting convergent validity, the Social Skills scale and the Problem Behaviors scale of the SSRS-T were found to correlate in the expected directions with teacher ratings on the Socialization Domain of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales: Classroom Edition, an author-constructed teacher questionnaire of prosocial behavior, and the Revised Conners Ratings Scales teacher form (Lyon et al., 1996; VonBrock Treuting & Elliott, 1997). Studies designed to examine convergent validity across both domains of positive social skills and conduct problems using empirically established measures, however, are necessary in order to further ascertain the validity of SSRS-T scores at the preschool level. Ideally, these studies would extend methods beyond teacher ratings to include self-report and parent-report ratings as well.

Evidence of the validity of the SSRS-T Preschool Level is also found in studies that have employed the SSRS-T as a dependent variable. One study found that children exhibiting more complex play behaviors during circle time had higher Social Skills scores, while children with developmentally advanced behaviors had lower Problem Behaviors scores (Farmer-Dougan & Kaszuba, 1999). The SSRS-T has also been found to be sensitive to treatment effects (Fantuzzo et al., 1996; Hibbart & Sprintall, 1995; McKinney & Rust, 1998) and has been used in validation studies of new instruments due to its widely accepted empirical validation (e.g., Bain & Pelletier, 1999; Fantuzzo, Sutton-Smith, Coolahan, Holliday Manz, Canning, & Debnam, 1995).

This instrument has been widely used with culturally diverse samples, particularly in the Head Start system (e.g., Bramlett et al., 1999; Fantuzzo et al., 1996; VonBrock Treuting & Elliott, 1997). In fact, several validation studies of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level have been conducted on minority samples (Holliday Manz, Fantuzzo, & McDermott, 1999; Fagan & Fantuzzo, 1999; Fantuzzo, Holliday Manz, & McDermott, 1998). Fantuzzo et al. (1998) attempted to validate the SSRS-T Preschool Level with 943 African-American Head Start children. These authors raised legitimate concerns that the preschool level of the SSRS was validated on the tryout sample with a longer version of the questionnaire and the factor structure was never subsequently confirmed once the shortened questionnaire was finalized. An exploratory factor analysis revealed a different three-factor internal structure of the Social Skills scale (i.e., Self-Control, Verbal Assertion, and Interpersonal Skills) while the Problem Behaviors scale was replicated (i.e., Externalizing and Internalizing). Two random subsamples were drawn from the larger sample of children and similar exploratory factor analyses revealed the same results. Follow-up confirmatory oblique cluster analysis displayed that this factor structure yielded maximum item variance without any items subsequently loading onto other factors. Further, the three Social Skills scales and two Problem Behaviors scales loaded on a single factor in a higher order factor analysis, but were inversely related, indicating that these two domains represent opposite poles of the overall construct of social competence. The degree of overlap between sociometrics and the SSRS-T was less than six percent (Fantuzzo et al., 1998), suggesting that measures of peer acceptance are relatively independent from the measurement of social competence in preschoolers. No other external validation was performed, however, such as a comparison of the Externalizing Behavior subscale with an established measure of conduct problems.

Further validation of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level is necessary. The published version of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level is based on an experimental sample of approximately 200 participants with adequate internal consistency reported in the manual (Gresham & Elliott, 1990). This scale has demonstrated convergent validity with the Socialization subscale of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales and the Revised Conners Ratings Scales teacher form (Lyon et al., 1996; VonBrock Treuting & Elliott, 1997) and the ability to discriminate between typically-developing children, developmentally delayed children, children with ADHD, and children attending Head Start (Byrne et al., 1998; Lyon et al., 1996; VonBrock Treuting & Elliott, 1997). In a direct attempt to determine the internal structure of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level with a sample of African-American preschoolers, Fantuzzo et al. (1998) revealed an alternate factor structure for the Social Skills scale. Although Fantuzzo and colleagues examined the relationship between sociometrics and the SSRS-T, Preschool Level, relationships between other measures of behavior and the scale were not investigated. Therefore, what is largely missing from this literature is external validation of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level (i.e., convergent and discriminant validity)--either the original published SSRS-T, Preschool Level factor structure or the Fantuzzo factor structure. An additional question is the applicability of the Fantuzzo factor structure to a low-income, predominantly Caucasian sample, given the fact that Fantuzzo and colleagues (1998) conducted their factor analysis of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level on an entirely African American Head Start sample.

The Present Study

In this study, we conducted an independent validation of one of the more promising rating systems tailored for preschool use, the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS; Gresham & Elliott, 1990), in a predominantly Caucasian Head Start sample. The inclusion of maximally different forms of assessment (e.g., teacher-report, peer-report, and behavioral analogue interview) minimizes possible common method variance contributions (Campbell & Fiske, 1959; Foster & Cone, 1995). This study represents the first validation of the published SSRS-T, Preschool Level factor structure against several empirically established instruments in the literature and including both positive and negative aspects of social behavior. Furthermore, the present study provides a comparison between this published factor structure and the factor structure proposed by Fantuzzo and colleagues in work with minority Head Start preschoolers. Together, these analyses will further validate the SSRS-T with respect to multiple domains of social behavior (i.e., both social skills and conduct problems) by employing maximally different assessment methods.

Method

Participants

Eighty-two preschool children enrolled in four local Head Start centers participated (n's = 17, 20, 20, and 25). The participation rate was 100% in each of the four classrooms due to a blanket consent achieved through the Parent Council to investigate the effects of a new curriculum (Carpenter, 2002). All measures reported here were collected at the baseline data collection point. Forty-two of the preschoolers were male and 40 were female. The sample was predominantly Caucasian (n = 77), with two African-American students, two non-Caucasian Hispanic students, and one Native American student. The age of the preschoolers ranged from 36 to 62 months (M = 48.4; SD = 7.2).

Measures

Teachers completed three behavior rating scales for each child in their classroom. Additionally, each child met one-on-one with graduate or advanced undergraduate research assistants to complete peer acceptance ratings and the puppet interview. Please see Table 1 for means and standard deviations of the measures described below.

Social Skills Rating System-Teacher Form. The Preschool Level (ages 3 to 5) of the SSRS-T consists of 40 items scored on a 3-point scale. The SSRS-T is composed of two main scales: Social Skills (e.g., Makes friends easily; Gives compliments to peers; Waits turn in games or other activities) and Problem Behaviors (e.g., Has temper tantrums; Appears lonely). The Social Skills scale has Standard Scores ranging from 40 to 130, whereas the Problem Behaviors scale scores range from 85 to 145. Both scales have a mean of 100 and a Standard Deviation of 15. The original published version of the Social Skills scale has three subscales: Cooperation, Assertion, and Self-Control. The Problem Behaviors scale has two subscales: Externalizing and Internalizing. Subscales are not standardized. Average standard scores on the Social Skills scale and the Problem Behaviors scale are reported in Table 1. The psychometric properties of the SSRS-T indicate adequate reliability and validity (e.g., Byrne et al., 1998; Gresham & Elliott, 1990; Lyon et al., 1996; VonBrock Treuting & Elliott, 1997).

Aggressive Behavior Subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist Caregiver-Teacher Report Form for Ages 2-5. Teachers were asked to complete the 23-item Aggressive Behavior subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist Caregiver-Teacher Report Form for Ages 2-5 (C-TRF; Achenbach, 1997) for each child in their classroom. The Aggressive Behavior subscale provides a comprehensive assessment of general conduct problems. Teachers are asked to rate on a 3-point scale the degree to which the child is, for example, "Defiant," "Gets in many fights," and "Teases a lot." As T-Scores on the Aggressive Behavior subscale range from < 50 to 100, raw scores were used in the present study to increase variability in the scores. In other words, raw scores were able to capture the variability of scores in those subjects classified as "< 50" with a T-score, rather than each of those subjects receiving the same score. The average sum is reported in Table 1. This subscale is appropriate to use independently of the entire C-TRF based upon the reliability and validity of its scores. In fact, during validation of the C-TRF, the Aggressive Behavior subscale was found have the strongest psychometric properties of all the C-TRF subscales (Achenbach, 1997).

Teacher ratings of relational aggression. The relational aggression factor of the Preschool Social Behavior Scale--Teacher Form (PSBS-T; Crick, Casas, & Mosher, 1997) was completed by teachers. The six-item relational aggression factor taps into the construct of relational aggression with items such as "Tells others not to play with or be a peer's friend," rated on a one to five Likert scale. The average sum is reported in Table 1. The items were derived by face-validity standards and an exploratory factor analysis indicated that the relational aggression items emerged as a separate factor independent of the overt aggression, prosocial behavior, and depressed affect factors. A Cronbach's alpha of .96 on the relational aggression factor indicates high internal consistency of the subscale (Crick et al., 1997).

Peer ratings of acceptance. A sociometric rating scale was administered individually to each child to provide a general measure of peer acceptance. The children rated how much they liked to play with each of their classmates by assigning a happy, neutral, or sad face to pictures of each child shown in random order (Asher, Singleton, Tinsley, & Hymel, 1979). Adequate reliability and validity have been demonstrated in preschoolers (e.g., Asher et al., 1979; Boivin & Begin, 1986; Hymel, 1983; Olson & Lifgren, 1988; Poteat, Ironsmith, & Bullock, 1986). Average ratings, with a possible range of one to three, were determined for each child by creating a mean rating based on each child's ratings by each of his or her classmates. These average ratings provided a peer report of each child's global social acceptance or like-ability.

Friendliness ratings from the Enactive Social Knowledge Interview. (ESKI; Mize & Ladd, 1988). Mize and Ladd's (1988) enactive social knowledge interview, an analogue behavioral measure, was individually administered to each child by highly trained graduate or advanced undergraduate research assistants. The child was given a puppet and told to pretend that he or she was the puppet. Six hypothetical social dilemmas were presented to the child who then acted out his or her response to each situation with the puppet and various props. The children's responses to the hypothetical social dilemmas were audiotaped and then transcribed verbatim. Using a coding manual (Mize & Ladd, 1988), the transcriptions were then coded on a one to five Likert scale measuring degree of friendliness versus hostility, resulting in a possible mean score ranging from one to five.

In a sample of preschoolers enrolled in publicly-funded daycare (i.e., lower socioeconomic status), the enactive social knowledge interview has demonstrated moderate internal consistency among the six stories as measured by Cronbach's alpha's of .64 for friendliness ratings (Mize & Ladd, 1988). Three-week test-retest reliabilities were r = .77 for friendliness ratings. With respect to evidence of validity, the friendliness ratings, measured on a continuum from hostile to friendly, yielded statistically significant correlations with teacher ratings of prosocial behavior (r = .56), teacher ratings of aggressive behavior (r = -.46), directly observed prosocial behavior (r = .32), and directly observed aggressive behavior (r = -.33). The friendliness ratings did not correlate significantly with peer ratings of acceptance in this sample (Mize & Ladd, 1988).

The enactive interview provided an objective behavioral and cognitive assessment of children's social skills, balancing the teacher ratings of behavior and peer ratings of acceptance in the present study.

Results

Internal Consistency of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level

To examine the validity of the SSRS-T scores for this sample, we first conducted an examination of the internal consistency of the various factors, including both the factors of the published SSRS-T and the Fantuzzo factor structure (see Table 2).

With .80 being the cutoff for good internal consistency (Henson, 2001), these results indicate that both the original factor structure and Fantuzzo's factor structure of the Social Skills scale have good internal consistency. Furthermore, of the Problem Behaviors subscales, the Externalizing subscale has good internal consistency, while the Internalizing subscale has only moderate internal consistency. The more general Problem Behaviors Scale also just missed the criteria for good internal consistency with a Cronbach's alpha of .78. It is clear, however, that it is the Internalizing subscale that is lending instability to the overall Problem Behaviors scale.

Internal Consistency of the Remaining Measures

Cronbach's alphas were also determined for the remaining multi-item measures. For the Aggressive Behavior subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist Caregiver--Teacher Report Form (C-TRF; Achenbach, 1997), a Cronbach's alpha of .94 was obtained. The relational aggression factor of the Preschool Social Behavior Scale--Teacher Form (PSBS-T; Crick, Casas, & Mosher, 1997) also had good internal consistency in our sample, with a Cronbach's alpha of .93.

For the Mize and Ladd's (1988) enactive social knowledge interview, interrater reliability was first calculated. A graduate research assistant coded all of the data initially. In addition, two advanced undergraduate research assistants double-coded the same data (each coded half) for reliability and consensing purposes. Assessed through Pearson correlation, the interrater reliability of the friendliness ratings was .92 for Coder 1 and .86 for Coder 2. The two undergraduate coders and the graduate research assistant consensed any discrepant ratings and these consensed scores were utilized in the final analyses. Cronbach's alpha for consensed friendliness ratings of the six stories was .59.

Comparison of the Published and Fantuzzo Factor Structure Correlational Patterns

To establish the external validity of the SSRS-T, we conducted an examination of both the published version of the SSRS-T and that of Fantuzzo and colleagues' factor structure. The nature of our assessment data allows us to examine differential correlational patterns between the two factor structures for convergent validity of the scales' scores. We first correlated the published factor structure of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level with the other measures of positive and negative social behavior to look for the expected meaningful relationships (see Table 3).

The three subscales had high positive correlations with each other (range = .70 to .83) as well as high positive correlations with the Social Skills scale (range = .89 to.94). In addition, all three social skill subscales and the overall Social Skills scale were negatively correlated both with the Externalizing subscale (range = -.26 to -.60), and the C-TRF Aggressive Behavior subscale (range = -.32 to -.61). All social scales were negatively correlated with the Internalizing subscale. The correlations with relational aggression were more mixed, with an overall positive correlation with the Social Skills scale and with the Cooperation and Assertion subscales but no correlation with the Self-Control subscale. Peer sociometrics are clearly positively correlated with all three subscales and the overall Social Skills scale (range = .30 to .45), as are the ESKI Friendliness Ratings (range = .25 to .30).

We next examined the correlation matrix for the Fantuzzo factor structure (see Table 4). As with the published subscales of the SSRS, the Fantuzzo factors also correlate highly with the published SSRS Social Skills Scale (range = .81 to .91). The intercorrelations among the three new factors were lower, however (range = .59 to .75). Again the Internalizing subscale was negatively correlated with all of the social scales. All but the Verbal Assertion subscale were negatively correlated with both the Externalizing subscale (range = -.25 to -.61) and the C-TRF Aggressive Behavior subscale (range = -.36 to-.63). Here, the Interpersonal Skills and Verbal Assertion factors were also positively correlated to relational aggression, whereas the Self-Control factor was again not significantly correlated. Both peer sociometrics and the ESKI Friendliness Ratings were positively correlated with the new factors (ranges = .31 to .39 and .22 to .31, respectively).

Utility of the Externalizing Subscale

Results support the utility of the SSRS-T Externalizing subscale as a measure of conduct problems in preschoolers. Raw scores of the Externalizing subscale correlate in predicted directions with measures of prosocial behavior (see Table 5). Specifically, the Externalizing subscale is negatively correlated with measures of positive social behavior (i.e., SSRS-T Social Skills and Peer Sociometrics) but not correlated with Friendliness Ratings upon interview. It is positively correlated with the well-established C-TRF Aggressive Behavior subscale and relational aggression but not related to the SSRS-T Internalizing subscale.

Importantly, the SSRS-T Externalizing subscale has the same correlation pattern with the other measures as the well-established, 23-item C-TRF Aggressive Behavior subscale.

Discussion

The goal of the present study was to provide evidence for the validation of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level as an instrument for measuring the two extremes of social behavior, social skills and conduct problems, in a predominantly Caucasian Head Start sample. To this end, it was necessary to examine the original published factor structure of the Social Skills scale versus the Fantuzzo factor structure. Given the factor analysis findings of Fantuzzo and colleagues with minority Head Start children (Fagan & Fantuzzo, 1999; Fantuzzo et al., 1998; Holliday Manz et al., 1999), researchers and clinicians may be left wondering if the entire Social Skills scale is even appropriate for use. The results of the present study clearly demonstrate that both factor structures correlate highly with the published Social Skills scale. Further, the original published Social Skills scale correlates in meaningful and theoretically expected directions with the other measures of social behavior, rendering these scores to be a valid measure of social skills. Critics might argue that one possible exception is the positive correlation with relational aggression. However, recent research has found the construct of relational aggression to be multifaceted at the preschool level, consisting of both positive and negative aspects of social behavior (e.g., Carpenter & Nangle, 2006; Hawley, 2003; and see Underwood, Galen, & Paquette, 2001 for a review). Therefore, regardless of which factor structure one prefers, the more global and standardized Social Skills scale can also be utilized for ease of interpretation and point of reference across studies.

The results of the present study do not invalidate the factor structure of the published SSRS-T, Preschool Level (e.g., Cooperation, Assertion, and Self-Control). The factors correlate highly with each other and with the other instruments using maximally different methods in theoretically meaningfully ways. Evidence of discriminant validity was found through a small negative correlation between each of the social skills scales and the internalizing subscale of the SSRS-T, constructs that are not expected to be positively related. These relationships were found for both the original factor structure and the Fantuzzo factor structure. However, researchers may prefer the Fantuzzo factor structure for several reasons. First, there is less overlap among the factor intercorrelations, although the three factors are still moderately and positively correlated with each other and highly correlated with the more global Social Skills scale. This suggests that the three factors are measuring different aspects of social competence, rather than all measuring the same construct three times. Second, the Verbal Assertion factor is particularly intriguing in that it bears no association with the Externalizing subscale or the Aggressive Behavior subscale of the C-TRF, unlike the Assertion subscale of the published SSRS-T. This indicates that Verbal Assertion may be a positive social trait independent of behavioral problems. Third, the Interpersonal Skills factor has less overlap with the conduct problem measures than does the Cooperation subscale. Again, this is desirable in that it indicates that the Interpersonal Skills factor is not merely measuring the inverse of conduct problems, but rather capturing a unique social construct.

The pattern of correlations is virtually the same for the Self-Control subscale in both factor structures, which is not surprising given that they have nine items in common. And, in both factor structures, the Self-Control subscale is somewhat problematic. The reason for the difficulty is the high negative correlation with the conduct problems measures, indicating that the Self-Control measure is the opposite of externalizing, conduct problem behavior. The salvaging aspect of the correlation pattern is the lack of a correlation with relational aggression. An examination of the items on these factors reveals that Self-Control may also be measuring the inverse of impulsivity with items such as, "waits turn," "controls temper with peers," and "follows game rules." Relational aggression may be entirely unrelated to impulsivity, whereas past research has clearly found links between impulsivity and aggression (e.g., Farrington, 1989; Luengo, Carrillo-de-la-Pena, Otero, & Romero, 1994; Solanto et al., 2001). Future research examining relational aggression may find the Self-Control subscale useful in unmasking the relationship, or lack thereof, between relational aggression and impulsivity.

In order to establish the SSRS-T as an empirically validated instrument for the assessment of both social skills deficits and conduct problems, we also investigated the utility of the Externalizing subscale. Overall, our psychometric analysis provided strong support for the internal consistency and validity of teacher-rated conduct problems in a Head Start sample. The SSRS-T Externalizing subscale and the C-TRF Aggressive Behavior subscale converged with one another and were inversely associated with maximally different prosocial behavior indices. Of note, neither instrument was associated with the SSRS-T Internalizing subscale or the Friendliness Ratings from the analogue behavioral interview, providing evidence of discriminant validity. In our view, it is not necessarily expected that preschool children with externalizing behavioral problems would have internalizing problems as well, although this is sometimes the case. With respect to friendly responses on the interview, this may indicate that children with behavioral difficulties are capable of being friendly under typical circumstances, which may not be related to the extreme behavior ratings culled by the Externalizing subscale.

Given the methodological obstacles inherent in assessing conduct problems during this developmental period, teacher ratings appear to be an invaluable alternative to other more time- and labor-intensive assessments, such as observations or peer ratings. The 6-item SSRS Externalizing subscale also places little burden on teachers. Therefore, the SSRS-T is capable of assessing both positive and negative social skills in one instrument, providing clinical utility to researcher and clinician alike. Future research should standardize the Externalizing subscale on a large, heterogeneous sample in order to maximize this utility.

The limitations of the present study include the relatively small sample size that precluded a confirmatory factor analysis of either the original published SSRS-T factor structure or the Fantuzzo factor structure of the SSRS-T. It would be useful for future research to address this caveat. The major goal of the present study, however, was to support the validation of the SSRS-T using multiple methods, such as behavioral analogue interview, rendering a large sample size much more difficult to attain. An additional limitation is the predominantly Caucasian sample. Given that the Fantuzzo factor structure was derived entirely on a sample of African-American Head Start preschoolers, this study suggests an application to Caucasian Head Start preschoolers as well, closing this gap in the literature. Further validation of the Fantuzzo factor structure with maximally different, independent measures, like the ones used in the present study, is still necessary with a minority population. By this same token, should the published version of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level continue in its original format, it too requires further validation studies with minorities. It will be important to also consider the ethnicity of the raters, as teachers certainly bring their own biases into ratings of their students. For example, a behavior may be rated as aggressive by a teacher of one cultural background and assertive by a teacher of another cultural background.

We hope that this study clarifies the use of the SSRS-T, Preschool Level as a psychometrically sound instrument. Both the original SSRS-T Social Skills factor structure and the Fantuzzo factor structure correlate in theoretically meaningful ways with measures employing maximally different methods utilized in the present study. The Fantuzzo factor structure appears to be preferable by virtue of distinguishing different aspects of the global construct of social competence, demonstrated by less factor intercorrelation overlap for the Fantuzzo factor structure than the original SSRS-T factor structure. Moreover, as assessed here, the Verbal Assertion Fantuzzo factor is a particularly nice measure of uniquely positive social skills, independent of externalizing behavior. Clinicians would be aided by the identification of clinical cut-off scores for these factors and by the standardization of the Externalizing Behavior subscale. Overall, the SSRS-T, Preschool Level is a valuable method of assessing both positive and negative aspects of social behavior in an efficient manner.

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Erika Carpenter Rich

Harbor Regional Center, Torrance, California

Elizabeth J. Shepherd and Douglas W. Nangle

University of Maine

Correspondence to Douglas W. Nangle, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, University of Maine, 5742 Clarence Cook Little Hall, Orono, ME 04469; e-mail: doug.nangle@umit.maine.edu.
Table 1 Table of means

                            Mean   SD     N

SSRS Social Skills          95.13  17.14  n = 79
SSRS Problem Behaviors      98.7   13.0   n = 79
C-TRF Aggressive Behavior    7.16   8.41  n = 79
Relational Aggression        7.57   3.25  n = 82
Peer Acceptance              2.41    .25  n = 77
ESKI--Friendliness Ratings   2.80    .61  n = 77

Table 2 Internal consistency and average sum scores of the SSRS-T
factors

                                           Cronbach's  Average Sum
                                           Alpha       Score (SD)
Scale                                      N = 79      N = 79

Social Skills Scale (30 Items)             .95         35.6 (12.6)
Cooperation (10 Items)                     .85         13.4 (3.9)
Assertion (10 Items)                       .92         10.3 (5.5)
Self-Control (10 Items)                    .90         12.0 (4.4)
Fantuzzo's Interpersonal Skills (9 Items)  .90         11.6 (4.4)
Fantuzzo's Verbal Assertion (5 Items)      .84          3.8 (2.8)
Fantuzzo's Self-Control (11 Items)         .90         13.6 (4.7)
Problem Behaviors Scale (10 Items)         .78          4.1 (3.4)
Externalizing (6 Items)                    .87          3.0 (3.0)
Internalizing (4 Items)                    .61          1.1 (1.3)

Table 3 Correlation matrix of the published SSRS-T factor structure

                               1.       2.            3.       4.

 1. SSRS-Social Skills         --
 2. SSRS-Cooperation            .93***  --
 3. SSRS-Assertion              .94***   .83***       --
 4. SSRS-Self-Control           .89***   .77***        .70***  --
 5. SSRS-Internalizing         -.29**   -.21[dagger]  -.32**   -.25*
 6. SSRS-Externalizing         -.45***  -.42***       -.26*    -.60***
 7. C-TRF Aggressive Behavior  -.49***  -.46***       -.32**   -.61***
 8. Relational Aggression       .22*     .30**         .33**   -.03
 9. Peer Sociometrics           .39***   .28**         .45***   .30**
10. ESKI Friendliness Ratings   .30**    .29**         .28**    .25*

Note. Pairwise sample sizes range from 75 to 79.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. [dagger]p = .07.

Table 4 Correlation matrix of the SSRS-T Fantuzzo factor structure

                               1.       2.       3.       4.

 1. SSRS-Social Skills         --
 2. SSRS-Interpersonal Skills   .91***  --
 3. SSRS-Verbal Assertion       .81***   .75***  --
 4. SSRS-Self-Control           .90***   .69***   .58***  --
 5. SSRS-Internalizing         -.29**   -.26*    -.28*    -.33**
 6. SSRS-Externalizing         -.45***  -.25*    -.15     -.61***
 7. C-TRF Aggressive Behavior  -.49***  -.36***  -.14     -.63***
 8. Relational Aggression       .22*     .35***   .37***  -.02
 9. Peer Sociometrics           .39***   .34**    .37***   .31**
10. ESKI Friendliness Ratings   .30**    .31**    .24*     .22*

Note. Pairwise sample sizes range from 75 to 79.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.

Table 5 Correlations with the SSRS-T Externalizing Subscale versus the
C-TRF Aggressive Behavior Subscale

                           SSRS-T Externalizing  C-TRF Aggressive
                           Subscale              Behavior Subscale

C-TRF Aggressive Behavior   .89***               --
SSRS-T Social Skills       -.45***               -.49***
SSRS-T Internalizing        .10                   .20
Relational Aggression       .20[dagger]           .24*
Peer Sociometrics          -.24*                 -.26*
ESKI Friendliness          -.09                  -.16

Note. Pairwise sample sizes range from 77 to 79.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. [dagger]p = .07.
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