Background: Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a marked and persistent fear of social and/or performance situations in which embarrassment or scrutiny from others may occur. In children, this marked and persistent fear must be present in peer settings and is not exclusive to interactions with adults (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Behaviorally, children with SAD may avoid eye contact and exhibit other behavioral symptoms such as stooped shoulders, nail biting, trembling voice, avoidance of social and performance situations, muffled voice, longer speech latency, inappropriate tone or low voice volume, and lack of spontaneous speech (Beidel & Turner, 2007; Ollendick, Benoit, & Grills-Taquechel, 2014; Spence, Donovan, & Brechman-Toussaint, 1999). Currently, there are several methods of assessing symptom severity of SAD, such as structured and semi-structured interviews supplemented by self- and parent-report forms, as well as behavioral assessment of social skills, such as RPTs. However, RPTs inherently present with feasibility concerns as there are several obstacles for its implementation. Thus, the current study will examine the psychometric properties of a VE based social skills assessment as it compares to the traditional RPT. Methods: Participants were 46 children, ages 7 to 14, who underwent two assessment conditions: RPT and VE BAT. Participants were assessed prior to the assessment conditions using the ADIS-C/P and completed several self- and parent-report forms. Participants reported self-ratings of anxiety and acceptability, while blinded observers rated social skills and overall social anxiety. Results: A paired-samples t-test revealed (a) no significant difference in acceptability between the two tasks (t(36) = .209, p > .05); (b) the VE BAT elicited somewhat less anxiety and somewhat more skilled social behavior than a comparable and traditional RPT; (c) the VE BAT demonstrated moderate concurrent validity with the SPAI-C (r = .422, p = .004); (d) behaviors were rated as consistent across assessment tasks for speech latency ( r = .367, p = .016), overall effectiveness ( r = .541, p = .000), overall social anxiety (r = .638, p = .000), and SAM ratings (r = .730, p = .000) and; (e) VE BAT was more feasible to implement than the RPT in terms of personnel time (t(45) = 12.87, p = .00, d = 2.69) and costs (t(45) = 12.88, p = .00, d = 1.83). Conclusion: The current study addresses many of the discussed limitations of conducting RPTs and, overall, supports the utilization of VE BATS as a viable alternative to behaviorally assessing social skills in children. Overall, the current study demonstrates acceptability, validity, and feasibility of implementing such a novel method, where a formal RPT is not possible. Further implications for the current study include that VEs have potential in the armamentarium for social skills training with children with SAD.


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Graduation Date





Beidel, Deborah


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Clinical Psychology









Release Date

May 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)