The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Maintenance of Depression Symptoms and Loneliness Among Children

Davis, Sarah K., Nowland, Rebecca orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4326-2425 and Qualter, Pamela (2019) The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Maintenance of Depression Symptoms and Loneliness Among Children. Frontiers in Psychology, 10 .

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Identifying factors that predict the maintenance of depression and loneliness in children is important for intervention design. Whilst emotional intelligence (EI) has been identified as a predictor of mental health, research examining how both trait and ability EI contribute to long-term patterns of symptomatology in children is markedly absent. We examined the impact of both TEI and AEI on the maintenance of loneliness and depressive symptoms over 1 year in children aged 9–11 years. Two hundred and thirteen children (54% male) completed the TEIQue-CF and the MSCEIT-YV at the first time point of the study, and the Child Depression Inventory and the Loneliness and Aloneness Scale for Children and Adolescents at Time 1 and, again, 1 year later. Findings indicate that emotional skills (AEI) are important for predicting the maintenance of depressive symptoms and loneliness in children over 1 year; emotional self-competency (TEI) is less influential, only contributing to long-term loneliness in girls. Moreover, whilst deficiencies in the ability to perceive and understand emotions were predictive of prolonged symptomatology, so, too, were proficiencies in using emotion to facilitate thinking and emotion management. Those findings carry important implications for EI theory and future research. They also indicate that EI interventions tailored to groups of “at risk” school children may be useful for reducing specific profiles of internalizing symptoms. Programs targeting AEI skills may be universally helpful for reducing the likelihood that depressive symptoms and loneliness will be maintained over time in middle childhood; girls at risk for prolonged loneliness would additionally benefit from opportunities to bolster TEI.

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