Student well-being is greater in classrooms with higher emotional intelligence
Group emotional intelligence represents the emotional intelligence shared by the students of a classroom, in other words, "the atmosphere in the group, the way the group addresses a problem, the capacity it has to understand the emotions being experienced in the classroom," explained Arantxa Gorostiaga, a researcher in the department of Social Psychology and Methodology of Behavioural Sciences and member of the UPV/EHU's Qualiker research group. In the classroom context, apart from academic content, adolescents acquire important personal and emotional competences to preserve their present and future well-being, so "it is interesting to analyse the influence of the emotions of the peer group on the well-being of adolescents. Furthermore, in a previous study we demonstrated that group emotional intelligence is related to higher levels of academic performance."
As regards adolescent attachment, "there are many studies in the scientific literature proving that this variable is a predictor of psychological well-being," remarked Gorostiaga. "At that age, youngsters experience distancing from their parents and move closer towards their peers, their friendships. So attachment provides them with protection, and is used as a support when facing problems. So it is related to adolescent well-being".
Since producing and adapting tools for evaluation and diagnosis purposes is one of the lines of research of the Qualiker group, they firstly created a tool to measure group emotional intelligence and translated into Basque a tool for determining attachment so that they could conduct the study explaining and predicting psychological well-being through a combination of them. After that, using a methodology known as multilevel analysis, they conducted an analysis of group and individual variables, simultaneously studying peer attachment and group emotional intelligence. The study was carried out on 2,182 adolescents (1,127 girls and 1,055 boys), students grouped into 118 classrooms at 14 secondary education schools.
As the results showed, attachment and group emotional intelligence emerge positively related to psychological well-being; in other words, "the students with the greatest attachment have the highest well-being, just as the students in classrooms with greater emotional intelligence do," explained the researcher. But beyond this they saw that group emotional intelligence influences the relation between the other two variables: "in the classrooms with greater emotional intelligence the relation between attachment and psychological well-being is stronger," she added.
This research could be used to identify the classrooms that need intervention. This is how Gorostiaga explained it: "In the diagnosis we can spot the classrooms that need to reinforce their emotional intelligence, and design some intervention. Having proved that group emotional intelligence helps not only to achieve better results but also to improve student well-being, it may be interesting to implement a programme to work on it".
The Qualiker research group of the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Psychology is led by Professor Nekane Balluerka. To obtain the sample of adolescents participating in the study they had the collaboration of the Basque Country's Federation of Ikastolas (Basque-medium schools) and the results have been published in the Journal of Adolescence, a publication that functions as a discussion forum for professionals and academics in the study of adolescence from various perspectives.
Balluerka, N., Gorostiaga, A., Alonso-Arbiol, I., Aritzeta, A. (2016). 'Peer attachment and class emotional intelligence as predictors of adolescents' psychological well-being: A multilevel approach'. Journal of Adolescence, 53, 1-9. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.08.009