The effects of cultural group membership on social competence

Edward John O'Keefe, Fordham University


Cultural differences between Hispanic-American and Anglo-American groups have been reported often in the literature from various theoretical perspectives. There has been only minimal investigation, however, into the differences between the social functioning of these two cultural groups within the school setting.^ The present study explored the social competence of Anglo and Hispanic high school students. Social competence was conceptualized to consist of a cognitive component, social problem-solving, and a behavioral component, social skills. Social problem-solving was measured by the Survey of Adolescent Classroom Competence (SACC). Social skills were measured by two forms of the Social Skills Rating System. The Teacher form (SSRS-T) involved ratings of student social behavior in the classroom, while the Parent form (SSRS-P) involved ratings of children's social behavior in the home and community. A Spanish translation of the SSRS-P for use with Hispanic parents was generated, utilizing Spanish-speaking judges who were natives of representative Latin American countries.^ The subjects were 33 Anglo and 33 Hispanic 9th and 10th graders from a low socioeconomic urban school district in northeastern New Jersey. All Hispanic students were born in a Latin American geographical region with a primarily Spanish-speaking population. Analysis of covariance, controlling for the influence of California Achievement Test-Reading scores, was used to test for significant differences between Anglo and Hispanic students on the SACC and SSRS-T, while t tests were used to test for significant differences on the SSRS-P. Results revealed no significant differences between Hispanic- and Anglo-American students in social problem-solving, or social skills as rated by teachers and parents, respectively. A significant positive relationship was found between social problem-solving and teacher-rated social skills but not between social problem-solving and parent-rated social skills. Social problem-solving and social skills were both negatively related to age. Females' social skills were rated higher than those of males by teachers but there were no significant differences in parent ratings. No significant culture x gender interactions were found.^ Interpretation of these results requires caution due to methodological shortcomings such as number of subjects and utilization of instruments that were not sufficiently sensitive to subtle cultural differences. Nevertheless, this study suggests that a typical sample of Hispanic-American high school students has adjusted well socially to the culture of the North American classroom. These interpretations should be considered suggestive, requiring substantial additional research of both a qualitative and quantitative nature. ^

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Social psychology|Educational psychology|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

O'Keefe, Edward John, "The effects of cultural group membership on social competence" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109238.