An Exploration of Adolescent Emotional Intelligence in Relation to Demographic Characteristics

By Harrod, Nicholas R.; Scheer, Scott D. | Adolescence, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview
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An Exploration of Adolescent Emotional Intelligence in Relation to Demographic Characteristics

Harrod, Nicholas R., Scheer, Scott D., Adolescence

Emotional intelligence (EI), a concept rooted in the theory of social intelligence (Rehfield, 2002) is defined in a number of ways. One definition denotes EI as the combination of factors that allow a person to feel, be motivated, regulate mood, control impulse, persist in the face of frustration, and thereby succeed in day-to-day living (Goleman, 1995). EI is a "different way of being smart" (Goleman, 1995). EI has also been identified as the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). In a concise definition, EI is the collection of a person's success-oriented traits.

Emotional intelligence has not traditionally seen the amount of research or exploration that has been given to topics such as cognitive intelligence, mental health, and mental capabilities. Since emotions play a vital part in the ways humans interact with each other and perform in home, school, and work settings, the need to understand emotions and EI is obvious. Emotional intelligence is the driving force behind the factors that affect personal success and everyday interactions with others. Studies of EI have shown its relevance to many aspects of life and the role it plays in the interactions and decisions of any given day. EI predicts as much as 80% of a person's success in life, whereas IQ predicts about 20%, according to Goleman (1995). Research indicates that there is a relationship between EI and leadership (Bertges, 2002), achievement test scores (Fannin, 2002), and problem solving (Schutte et al., 2000).

Because of research in these areas, recent publications, and continued progressive thinking in regard to the topic, EI and its implications have been brought to the attention of educators and researchers across the nation. However, as almost all EI research targets adults, a need exists for the exploration of adolescent EI. This study begins to reveal the demographic characteristics of adolescent EI through an exploration of the relationship of specific demographic variables with adolescent EI.



Participants in this study were 200 students 16-19 years of age from three Midwestern high schools. Two of the schools were in rural public districts and the third was a private high school in a suburb of a Midwestern state capital city. All three of the schools had diverse socio-economic compositions. Of a possible 275 respondents, 200 (73%) returned the consent forms and participated in the study by completing the assessment.

The sample consisted of 91 females and 109 males, and the mean age of the respondents was 17.24. A slight majority of the respondents (50.8%) lived in urban areas and the rest in rural areas (49.3%). Most of the respondents' mothers and fathers had a high school diploma (respectively, 44.3% and 44.0%) or a college degree (respectively, 28.4% and 26.9%). Household income was reported most frequently in the ranges of $80,000+ (32.9%), $40,000-$59,999 (29.3%), and $60,000-$79,999 (19.8%). Though these figures may seem inflated, a confirmation of the average family income for each municipality was conducted according to U.S. Census data, revealing that the responses were similar to the reported Census values.


A two-part assessment designed to collect EI and demographic information was administered to the students in an introductory or homeroom type class to ensure a more widespread sampling of the student body. Consent was obtained from all individuals prior to participation. Participants 18 years and older were allowed to sign their own consent forms and return them to the school. Respondents under the age of 18 could verbally assent to participate, but they were also required to return a written consent form signed by a parent or legal guardian. The demographic information was immediately recorded, and the EI section of the assessment was analyzed based on the methods and procedures set forth by Bar-On (2000).

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An Exploration of Adolescent Emotional Intelligence in Relation to Demographic Characteristics


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