Emotional Intelligence Training Improves Adolescents’ Social Skills

Being able to adapt to changing social situations is an important factor that influences overall well-being. Adolescents are subjected to ever-changing family, peer, and academic environments that each demand unique emotional responses. Children who are better able to perceive, manage, and understand their emotions may have an advantage when confronted with these situations. Emotional intelligence (EI) is a term that encompasses an individual’s emotional comprehension and utilization. How people handle their emotions directly impacts how they will react in social situations. Taken even further, EI can influence psychological well-being and contribute to or protect people from anxiety, depression, and other negative mental states.

Although relatively new programs have been designed to strengthen EI in adolescents, their efficacy has not been thoroughly tested. To assess how well EI programs work, Desiree Ruiz-Aranda of the Department of Basic Psychology at the University of Malaga in Spain recently conducted a study that involved 147 Spanish high school students. Roughly half of the students were enrolled in a 10-week EI program, while the other half served as controls. The students participated in the programs over two school years and were evaluated for stress, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and general social adjustment before and after the intervention.

Ruiz-Aranda found that the students in the EI program had higher levels of adaptive adjustment and self-esteem than the controls. She also noticed that the control students had more anxiety, depression, somatic symptoms, and maladaptive coping skills than those in the EI intervention. The results of this study suggest that students who develop their ability to understand, process, and use their emotions may be able to navigate unfamiliar and challenging social situations better than those who do not. Ruiz-Aranda noted one limitation of this study was the restricted follow-up time, and future work should extend that by examining adjustment at least six months post-intervention. “Another limitation is that we did not assign a specific activity to the control group while the EI group was receiving training,” Ruiz-Aranda said. Subsequent research should address these limitations in order to strengthen the findings revealed here.

Ruiz-Aranda, Desiree, Jose Martin Salguero, Rosario Cabello, Raquel Palomera, and Pablo Fernandez-Berrocal. Can an emotional intelligence program improve adolescents’ psychosocial adjustment? Results from the intemo project. Social Behavior & Personality 40.8 (2012): 1373-380. Print.

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  • donna bixby

    donna bixby

    November 14th, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    It would be nice to see more schools implement programs that increase the EI in their students.

    I find that too many schools and teachers get so caught up in teaching to the test and being compelled to get higher and higher scores from their students that they forget that a big part of what they should do is also teach them to be good citizens too.

    I don’t place all of this responsibility at the feet of the teachers, because they need help from the parents at home too. But wouldn’t it be nice to know that our students are being given many of the tools that they need to increase their EI and their social skills while being academically challenged as well?

  • Audra


    November 15th, 2012 at 3:49 AM

    Hi Donna- I agree that more programs like this would be nice. But where is all the money going to come from to do this?

  • Harley


    November 15th, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    Wow, this study got some pretty impressive results. If EI training is what it takes to get young people better social skills, I’m all for it. Audra, I’ll write the check myself!

  • Panzee


    November 15th, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    HA! I can’t even imagine what would happen if I told my 15 y.o. daughter she was going to take some classes to improve her social skills. Cuz she knows EVERYTHING, don’t ya know.

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