Theory of Mind, Depressive Symptoms, and Social Competence in Youth
The goal of the current study was to investigate the relations among depressive symptoms, theory of mind, and social functioning in children. Participants were 98 children ages 8- through 15-years-old (mean age = 10.89 years, SD = 1.91). Children completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies Scale for Children (CES-DC), interview measures of theory of mind including the Strange Stories and the Faux Pas Stories task and the Flexibility and Automaticity of Social Cognition task (FASC). Parents (65 mothers and 3 fathers) completed the CES-DC about their child’s depressive symptoms, the Children’s Social Understanding Scale (CSUS), which measures their child’s theory of mind (ToM), and the Social Skills Subscale of the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) regarding their child’s social competence. Significant associations were found between children’s depressive symptoms (CES-DC) and their use of FASC mental state terms (-0.256, p = .012), parents’ report of children’s depressive symptoms (P-CES-DC) and social competence (SSIS), r(69) = -.504, p = .000, and parent reports of children’s ToM (CSUS) and social competence, r(69) = .529, p = .000. Although correlations among the relevant variables were significant, mediation analyses did not show a significant indirect effect of parents report of child ToM (CSUS) on the relation between parent reports of children’s depressive symptoms (P-CES-DC) and social competence (SSIS) (bootstrap 95% confidence interval for indirect effect of ToM = [-.0583, .0552]). Limitations of the current study and suggestions for future research, as well as implications for treatment of depression in children, are discussed.