Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Emotional intelligence development in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood
How does emotional intelligence change and develop during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood?
Emotional intelligence (EI) has become an increasingly popular within psychology. Since the late twentieth century there has been considerable research into EI and its correlates with psychology and emotion. Originally, EI was defined as a set of emotional skills used for processing emotional information and using this information to guide actions. Since then, there have been several other models to explain EI (Joesph & Newman, 2010).
Development of emotional perceptions starts within the first few days of life, meaning that we as humans are learning to perceive different emotions early in life (Zeidner, Matthews, Roberts & MacCan, 2003). The emotional developmental process begins early and continues to transition itself throughout different stages of our lives.
Throughout this chapter you will learn:
How is emotional intelligence developed?
The developmental processes involved in EI start at infancy, where perception of one's own emotions comes to fruition. Emotional understanding develops a few years later by age two, and continues to grow and strengthen by ages three and four, when emotional understanding becomes more sophisticated (Zeidner et at., 2003). According to EI theories, individuals mature in their abilities to process and apply emotional information throughout their lives. Through the developmental life cycle, individuals learn how to understand their own emotions more efficiently, as well as understanding and recognising others emotions (Rivers et al., 2012).
Theories of emotional intelligence
Four branch model ability of emotional intelligence
The four branch model that explains EI was developed by Mayer and Salovey (1997). This model specifies that the four emotional abilities that make up EI have a developmental timeline. These four emotional abilities evolve from basic functioning to complex and higher order functioning. The four emotional abilities include:
- Perceiving and expressing emotion
- Using emotion to facilitate thought
- Understanding emotion
- Regulating emotion
This ability is involved in identifying one's own emotions, feelings, thoughts and expressions, as well as identifying other peoples' emotions and differentiating them. The term expressing emotions is defined as how a person communicates those feelings and the appropriate time to express feelings (Rivers et al., 2012). People who can successfully recognise other people's emotions can adequately alter their behaviour and respond to these emotional cues in a way that is appropriate. In contrast, people who cannot recognise other people's emotions and their own emotions are thought to be socially disconnected (Rivers et al., 2012).
This ability area uses emotions to facilitate different thoughts whilst using them rationally, logically, and creatively. This process involves controlling emotions to prioritise thinking. Different emotions cause different thinking patterns. Thus, certain emotions are more or less adaptive to different reasoning tasks. For example, positive emotions would be better suited to creative and stimulating thoughts and actions (Rivers et al., 2012).
This involves knowing what causes emotions and what emotions represent about certain goals and overall health. It's also about correctly labelling emotions, a process involving making connections between the experience and wording of emotions. People who have a strong understanding of their emotions are better at coping with their emotions, thus, in contrast, people who have a weak understanding of their emotions are not good at creating coping mechanisms (Rivers et al., 2012).
This is an ability that involves managing one's emotional thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that occur with emotional experiences. People who are successful in managing their emotions are able to feel the positive and negative emotions that come with any situation, and are able to share those emotions with others and create coping strategies for any situation (Rivers et al., 2012).
The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT)
The MSCEIT is a test which measures each emotional ability. It has eight different sections, with two tasks to measure each of the four abilities (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso, 2004). It was created by Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso in 2008. Individuals complete tests within each ability to assess their competence at measuring emotions. For example, one of the tasks on the test is to label an emotion expressed on someone's face and identifying strategic ways to regulate that emotion (Rivers et al., 2012).The MSCEIT is an ability-based test, that measures maximal performance. In contrast to self-report measures, ability-based measures are less susceptible to social desirability bias or faking, resulting in a more accurate measurement (Rivers et al., 2012).
Trait emotional intelligence
Trait EI is conceptualised as lower order personality traits; it perceives EI as being made up of numerous emotional-related self-perceptions and traits (Petrides, Pérez-González & Furnham, 2007). Trait EI integrates personality through 15 distinct facets that are combined into 4 broad factors: well-being, self-control, emotionality and sociability. There is considerable research that suggests that trait EI is a facet of conceptualising personality (Costa, Petrides & Tillman, 2014).
The TEIQue is a self-report inventory that assess an individual’s EI. It consists of 153 items which are rated on a seven point Likert scale with 15 facets which are categorised under the four factors in trait EI (Freudenthaler, Neubauer, Gabler, Scherl & Rindermann, 2008).
The Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire-Adolescent Short Form (TEIQue-ASF) is a shorter and easier to read version of the original TEIQue, comprised of 30 items. This was developed to measure adolescent’s EI. Research into the TEIQue-ASF has had little psychometric research compared to its adult equivalent. Many of the studies which use the TEIQue-ASF have shown good internal reliability in testing on adolescents (Siegling, Vesely, Saklofske, Frederickson & Petrides, 2015)
A mixed model of emotional intelligence
The "mixed" model of EI is an integration of cognitive abilities, personality traits and motivation that facilitate handling emotions in the real-world. This is also known as Goleman's (1998) theory of EI. Goleman lists five dimensions to personality, each consisting of three or more competences. These five dimensions are:
- Social skills
This model ultimately integrates the ability model and the trait model and meshes it into one model that suggests both of these constructs make up EI. Criticism regarding this mixed model of EI includes that it has a large overlap with existing personality constructs. Accusing that there is not a new construct being measured, it's merely a regurgitation of old information (Zeidner et al., 2003).
Emotional intelligence in adolescents
Adolescence is the transition from child into adult, and follows the onset of puberty.Typically, it encompasses the ages from around 10 to 20 years old, but each individual has a different time frame in which they enter and exit adolescence. It is a developmental process of psychological adjustment, which is important for functioning in adulthood. Adolescence is a time of risk for the onset of particular mental disorders, such as anxiety and mood disorders. It is also a time for experimenting with substances such as drugs and alcohol, and experiencing sexual encounters (Resurrección, Salguero & Ruiz Aranda, 2014). There are several personal characteristics that are important for personal development; these include: self-esteem, social competence, and regulation strategies. In recent times, a strong EI has been thought to be associated with better psychological functioning. Therefore, it is deemed that adolescences with higher EI have less chance of developing mood disorders and engaging in risky behaviours. However, there is still very limited research on the specific development and growth of EI in adolescence (Resurrección et al., 2014).
A self-report measure is any method which involves a participant reflecting on their own feelings, beliefs and attitudes. Self report measures have been widely criticised in their ability to predict and assess EI. Self-report measures are deemed to have low reliability and self-report measures are susceptible to social desirability and bias among individuals (Ciarrochi et al., 2001).
Other studies have attempted to pinpoint the development of EI in adolescence specifically, by trying to measure EI. There is evidence for measuring EI in adults, but limited research in measuring EI for adolescence. A study conducted by Ciarrochi, Chan, and Bajgar (2001) attempted to measure EI in adolescence by using self-report measures. There has been more research in the development of EI using performance measures, such as tests and the MSCIET but no further research looking into self-report measures. The perceived reason for this is because people (especially adolescences) tend to over estimate the answers about themselves and distort their responses, however, Ciarrochi et al (2001) believed that further insight into self-report measures would be more beneficial. Because self-report measures assess adolescents' perceived emotional competence, it can be as predictive as actual EI. It was found in this study that adolescents can somewhat reliably report their own emotions. It was also found that EI can be identified and even taught in adolescents . Building upon their emotional skills to better cope with emotional difficulties .
Emotional intelligence in young adulthood
Young adulthood is a period in life that comes after adolescence and typically ranges from 20 to 40 years. The transition into adulthood includes the completion of schooling, the beginning of full-time employment or starting university, engaging in new relationships, and taking on different responsibilities. These transitions are what define the commencement of young adulthood (Goldschieder, Hofferth & Curtin, 2014). Emerging adulthood can be described as a period in life where one feels most emotionally insecure in regards to role status and new responsibilities (Zimmermann & Iwanski, 2014). With age, peoples' attitudes and emotions become more goal-orientated. When time is perceived as expansive, which is typical for young adults, they tend to plan for future milestone events and are setting out goals in life (i.e., travelling the world, buying a house, getting married, starting a family). In contrast to this, adults who are middle aged perceive time as dwindling, and therefore place more importance on the emotional drives towards their goals. This therefore gives stability to the idea that peoples' emotions regulate over different periods of their lives (Wechtler, Koveshnikov & Dejoux, 2015). Young adults seem to put more emphasis on the negative aspects of life and negative information is processed more thoroughly than positive information . They are also more prone to emotional overreaction, depression and anxiety . This could be apparent because younger adults are still learning how to regulate and perceive their emotions (Wechtler et al., 2015).
Emotional development from adolescence to young adulthood
What happens during this transition?
Adolescence involves a number of biological changes including which contributes to emotional instability and mood variation. The possible cause of these variations is said to be an imbalance between the subcortical and cortical areas within the brain, as these areas are involved in emotion processing during adolescence. It is thought that the subcortical area is more developed during adolescence and the cortical areas develop towards the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood (Vink, Derks, Hoogendam, Hillegers & Kahn, 2014). There are differing results among various studies that have researched the specific brain areas in emotional processing between adolescence and adulthood. Some studies have shown that there is increased activity in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in adolescence compared to adulthood, however other studies note no activity, or a decrease in amygdala activity. More specialised research within this area is needed for more definitive answers (Vink et al, 2014).
Socioemotional selectivity theory explains that as people get older, they search for a more emotionally meaningful life. They direct their attention to more meaningful aspects of life that involve experiencing a higher rate of emotions. This therefore explains that, as we get older, our meaning in life becomes more emotion-oriented (Wetchler, 2015).
What emotional changes occur?
Adolescence and young adulthood are periods of development for emotional regulation, with increased emotionality and a rapid pace of developmental changes. Thus meaningthat these are very delicate years for EI development and any negative experiences can shape the way individuals regulate their emotions when they reach middle and older adulthood. Adolescence is a period during which there is fast and fundamental changes in cognitive and emotional domains. During this stage, many aspects of adolescents' lives are accompanied by negative perspectives and thoughts. Aspects such as unstable peer and romantic relationships, and a decrease in perceived support from parents (i.e., feeling like their parents don't care about them) are some of the negative perspectives they encounter.
In middle adolescence, perceived conflict with parents becomes more emotional, and traits such as agreeableness and conscientiousness decrease, while neuroticism increases (Zimmermann & Iwanski, 2014). When emerging into adulthood, individuals experience emotional insecurity as they develop new responsibilities. During this developmental phase, expressed anger slowly decreases and the rate of developing depression increases; this is especially prevalent for women. Therefore, the stabilisation of emotions during adolescence is very low and still not fully established by young adulthood. This may be caused by biological influences such as intense fluctuations in hormones. Developmental changes in emotions also occur in emotional regulation, the process which comprehends a series of processes that are responsible for monitoring and controlling emotions in situations that are current, remembered or anticipated.
During adolescence and young adulthood, emotional regulation can potentially become more flexible. This is due to an increase in consistency in recognising and understanding ones' own, and others' emotions and is an insight into own emotion related behaviours (Zimmermann & Iwanski, 2014).
This chapter explained the overarching theories and various techniques for measuring EI, as well as information about how emotions develop in adolescence and young adulthood. Furthermore, this chapter discussed the changes in EI that occur in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, with particular focus on emotional and biological changes. Emotions in adolescence are quite unstable and weak, and although emotions start to regulate better as they emerge into adulthood, emotions still tend to be slightly more unstable than in middle and older adulthood. Therefore, EI continues to develop throughout the life span; adolescents and young adults, in particular, are delicate years for understanding one's own, and other peoples' emotions.
Time for a quick quiz to test your knowledge!
- Emotional Intelligence
- Emotional intelligence and job performance (Book chapter, 2016)
- Emotional insecurity and goal pursuit (Book chapter, 2016)
- Emotional labour (Book, chapter, 2016)
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