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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