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The importance of competent social interactions for adolescent adjustment and successful functioning at home, school, work, and social settings has been well documented (cf. Hansen, Giacoletti, & Nangle, 1995; Kelly & Hansen, 1987; Peterson & Hamburg, 1986). Within a developmental context marked by transitions, establishing and maintaining competent social interactions can be particularly challenging for adolescents. Fundamental developmental changes, including the onset of puberty, the emergence of more advanced cognitive and verbal abilities, and the transition into new roles in society, significantly alter social interactions (Bierman & Montminy, 1993; Hansen et al., 1995). These interactions become increasingly complicated and adult-like, as the peer group becomes larger and more complex, more time is spent with peers, and interactions with opposite-sex peers increase (Csikszentmihaly, & Larson, 1984; Peterson & Hamburg, 1986). The risks associated with not adapting to the ever changing social environment are many. Social-skills deficits and peer rejection are associated with a number of negative outcomes, including mental health problems, behavior problems, delinquency, substance abuse, sexual offending, loneliness, high-risk sexual behavior, and academic and vocational difficulties (Hansen et al., 1995; Kupersmidt & Coie, 1990; Parker & Asher, 1987). The negative outcomes associated with social interaction problems during childhood and adolescence have led to a great deal of research on the remediation of social-skills deficits. Despite the unique social challenges of adolescence, however, most of this research has focused on young children and preadolescents (Elliot & Gresham, 1993; Hansen et al., 1995).
This Special Section of Education and Treatment of Children calls needed attention to the social interaction problems of adolescents. The four articles comprising this section address the current promise, as well the many challenges, of conducting social-skills interventions with this population. Each invited contribution describes exciting new directions in research and clinical applications. The impetus for this issue was a symposium presented at the annual conference of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy (Nangle, 1994). The value of the information covered in the symposium was such that we felt the opportunity to publish the papers together in a Special Section was ideal.