RESEARCH – November 2010

Development of social skills and evaluation of the theory of mind in school-aged children


Articles PDF


Social skills are very important in child’s everyday interaction. Deficits in processing of social and emotional informations are often oblivious. This may result in child’s disrupted social behaviour. The aim of the present study was to evaluate development of social skills and social competence in children with normal health. Altogether 59 10–12 year old children participated in the present study. To investigate such social competences as the understanding of false beliefs, intentional lying and sarcasm, different stories illustrated with pictures were used. Executive planning skills were evaluated using the Tower of London test from the NEPSY test battery.

We found that children at the age of 10–12 years are more capable of under standing false beliefs than of understanding intentional lying, while the understanding of sarcastic remarks is the hardest challenge.  In the understanding of false beliefs 12 year old children (M = 1.88; SD = 0.12) (t = -2.3; p = 0.03) were more competent than 10 year old children (M = 1.56; SD = 0.85). Older children’s superiority was also evident in the understanding of sarcastic remarks. No significant gender differences were revealed in social skill. Contrary to our hypothesis, children with better planning skills did not show any superiority in social skills. Thus the understanding of social interaction and other people’s behaviour seems to be rather a specific skill and not directly related to cognitive skills. Still, as children grow older their ability to understand other people’s intentions, thoughts and behaviours gradually improves. This will usually lead to more appropriate emotional and behavioural reactions. In children with epilepsy and autism, one of the reasons for behavioural and communicational disorders could be the lower ability to understand other people.