Objectives: This study investigated social skills deficits among adolescents with bipolar disorder.
Methods: Adolescents with DMS-IV bipolar disorder (n = 18) and their parents completed social skills assessments when they were experiencing minimal mood symptoms. The control group (n = 18) consisted of adolescents with no history of psychiatric disorders. Participants and their parents rated the adolescents’ social performance using the Matson Evaluation of Social Skills with Youngsters. We measured the adolescents’ knowledge of appropriate social skills using the Interpersonal Negotiation Strategy Interview. Raters ‘blind’ to psychiatric status rated the adolescents’ responses and their social interactions with an examiner during the assessment.
Results: Adolescents with bipolar disorder displayed significantly more social skills performance deficits than controls. No significant differences emerged between the groups in social skills knowledge. Ratings of social interactions with the examiner failed to distinguish bipolar from control teens, but raters were successful in guessing the psychiatric status of the participants.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that bipolar adolescents lag behind their peers in social skills performance, but not social skills knowledge. Results support the hypothesis that difficulties with emotion regulation interfere with the consistent exhibition of appropriate social behaviors.