Social competence in Zimbabwean multicultural schools: Effects of ethnic and gender differences

Elias Mpofu, Kenneth R. Thomas, Fong Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Students' social competence was investigated in relation to race/ethnicity and gender for a sample of 371 Zimbabwean students attending racially/ethnically integrated schools. About 42% of the students were black, and 58% white (mean age 12 years; SD=9 months). Peer and teacher sociometric ratings of children's social behaviour, social responsibility, and friendliness comprised the social competence measures. Tests of empirical independence among these social competence measures supported their uniqueness in reliably assessing components of the general construct of social competence among Zimbabwean students. Multiple analysis of variance procedures were used to examine the relationship between social competence statuses and group membership (i.e., race/ethnicity, gender) while controlling for aggregate scores and classroom racial proportions. Superior academic achievement and racial/ehnic propinquity are social status levelling factors in multiracial school settings. Teachers rated white students higher on social responsibility and social behaviour. Students rated white students higher on social responsibility only. Comparisons of social competence by ethnicity and gender revealed that white and female students were rated significantly higher on social behaviour and social responsibility than their black and male classmates. Female students were perceived as more socially competent or better adjusted to school than males. Reliable differences in social competence in race/ethnicity and gender groups were concentrated in peer ratings of social responsibility and in teacher ratings of social behaviour and social responsibility. In postcolonial settings or settings with a history of race/ethnicity and gender-based privilege, minorities from a dominant culture may have higher social status than peers from a majority culture. Superior social competence in females is a resource for school adaptation and social climate. Students have perceptions of social competence in peers that only partially overlap with those of teachers and contribute uniquely to their experience of school. Social competence in students is multifaceted, gendered, and differently perceived by teachers and peers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-178
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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