Standard Article

Social Competence

  1. Pamela Orpinas

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0887

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Orpinas, P. 2010. Social Competence. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Georgia

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Social competence is defined as the ability to handle social interactions effectively. In other words, social competence refers to getting along well with others, being able to form and maintain close relationships, and responding in adaptive ways in social settings. Given the complexity of social interactions, social competence is the product of a wide range of cognitive abilities, emotional processes, behavioral skills, social awareness, and personal and cultural values related to interpersonal relationships. To further complicate the understanding of this concept, social competence is dependent on developmental characteristics (i.e., expectations of social competence vary by age of person), the specific social situation (i.e., people may be socially competent in one situation but not in another, or a child may appear more competent when interacting with a socially skilled partner than with a shy person), and cultural characteristics (i.e., specific acts of social competence are bound by cultural expectations). In an effort to integrate these components, Orpinas and Horne (2006) defined social competence as “a person's age-appropriate knowledge and skills for functioning peacefully and creatively in his or her own community or social environment” (p. 108).


  • social skills;
  • socials development;
  • problem solving;
  • culture;
  • relationships;
  • loneliness