Adolescent Social Skills Intervention: Theory, Design, and Implementation

  • Author / Creator
    Spaans, Rianne, E.
  • This dissertation consists of three separate papers that contribute to the field of social skills intervention design and implementation with a specific focus on how to support adolescents with identified social skills difficulties. The first paper is a review paper of important topics related to this dissertation, namely social skills development, and current common intervention designs and strategies. The importance of underlying cognitive and socio-emotional abilities for social functioning are outlined, thereby emphasizing the importance of training these abilities in interventions focussed on improving social skills. In this first paper, I describe gaps noted in currently available social skills interventions and highlight specific concerns for the adolescent population due to limited availability of developmentally appropriate and engaging interventions for youth. I call for a new way of intervening for adolescents with social skills difficulties with an emphasis on training underlying abilities while employing innovative intervention delivery methods to increase engagement. As a result, I make a case for the use of video games as an intervention platform that can help offset some of the noted gaps.
    In the second paper, I describe a two-fold process including the design and implementation phases of a newly developed social skills intervention for adolescents with identified social skills difficulties as well as a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnosis. First, in the design phase, I discuss the steps taken to create a video game-based intervention focussed on training underlying cognitive and socio-emotional abilities for social skills improvement. Furthermore, details about the development team, the chosen training constructs, the training progression, and the gamification process are provided. Second, in the implementation phase, I present and discuss data collected from an initial implementation of the video game based social skills intervention with three adolescent participants with an FASD diagnosis. Several positive trends are found, including caregiver report of positive impacts on the youth’s social skills and problem behaviors. Some inconsistent yet positive changes are also found for the cognitive scores, thereby providing some initial support for the concept of training cognitive abilities within a video game setting. This initial implementation is an important first step as it assesses feasibility and helps guide future refinements for the designed intervention.
    In the third paper, I extend the exploration of the use of the designed and refined theory-driven video game based social skills intervention for a broad group of adolescents. A sample of 10 adolescents, with third party identified social skills difficulties, participated in the intervention. I conducted pre-and post-testing of social skills outcomes and collected change data on the participants cognitive and socio-emotional abilities. The results show some continued positive trends towards positive change in social skills and problem behaviors associated with social functioning. Furthermore, I collected data on the intervention engagement of the participants, and I present preliminary evidence of high adolescent engagement and low attrition within the video game intervention. Although exploratory in nature, I discuss the importance of these findings and the associated links to clinical practice and future research.
    Overall, this dissertation is based on the premise that a video game grounded in theory can answer the call for a new way of supporting adolescents with social skills difficulties. Thus, all three papers are threaded together by a common focus on exploring this new intervention from theory to design, and implementation with an ultimate goal of improving the delivery and availability of social skills interventions for adolescents.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.