Young people’s social skills
- Location: the accredited SeNSS DTP
- Duration: three years, beginning in October 2020 and completing in 2023
- Supervisors: Dr Birgitta Rabe and Professor Sonia Bhalotra
20 January: date to apply to ISER
17 February: date to apply for studentship, please submit this application to the supervisor(s) directly
16 March: final decisions communicated
Studies have documented that social and emotional skills are increasingly important in the workplace and attract higher wages. Socio-emotional skills such as personality traits, goals, character, motivations, and preferences are successful in predicting educational attainment, labour market success, health, and criminality. There is a debate in the literature on how best to measure social skills, including using performance on tasks, self-reported questionnaires, and observed behaviours. Several papers have shown that measuring socio-emotional (non-cognitive) skills by behaviours observed in the adolescent years is a promising approach that is free of reference bias. These behaviours can include risky and reckless behaviours such as stealing from a store, purposefully damaging property or skipping class as well as positive behaviours such as taking part in extra-curricular activities.
This PhD will build on existing research by investigating how social skills are produced, how they relate to observed outcomes and how they mediate other behaviours and outcomes. Throughout, the focus will be on behavioural measures of social skills. A central data source will be Understanding Society, the UK Longitudinal Household Survey (UKHLS) which contains a Youth Panel administered to 10-15 year olds. It contains longitudinal individual data on measures of self-esteem and anxiety (the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire), bullying, truancy, smoking and alcohol use and other risky behaviours, vandalism, happiness (mental health) and social media use for a representative sample of adolescents and young adults. The data are linked to administrative school records including individual-level test results and school-level characteristics. Linking siblings in the data and comparing outcomes for siblings within the same family allows the researcher to control for unobserved differences between families.
One suggested avenue of enquiry for this studentship is to investigate the socio-economic status (SES) gradient in the gender gap in education. Another possible line of research includes using the richness of the UKHLS data to explore the predictive power of various types of behaviours for outcomes including exam results, labour market success, health and family formation. Further, the PhD may investigate how social and cognitive skills interact with each other and inputs from schools and parents to produce outcomes in the labour market.