The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence of Mothers and Problem Behavior in Their Young Children: A Longitudinal Analysis

By Tsujino, Junko; Oyama-Higa, Mayumi | Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence of Mothers and Problem Behavior in Their Young Children: A Longitudinal Analysis


Tsujino, Junko, Oyama-Higa, Mayumi, Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health


ABSTRACT: We studied the relationship between the emotional intelligence of mothers and problem behavior in their young children. The study covered 65 mothers who answered questionnaires during all of the studied phases, i.e., when the child was a fetus, and when it was 2, 3, 4, and 5 years old. The emotional intelligence of the mothers was measured with Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i: Bar-On, 1997). The results showed a relationship between certain areas of emotional intelligence of the mothers and problem behavior in their children. The mother's emotional intelligence was related to the mother herself having been a victim of violence.

KEY WORDS: emotional intelligence, problem behavior, attachment.

INTRODUCTION

Even when they are infants who cannot speak, highly sensitive children acutely sense the tension and the problems in the life of their parents, and are affected by them. The younger the child, the greater is its dependence on the mother. Children are naturally affected most by their mothers because they are in close contact with their mothers for long periods of time. Children expand their interpersonal relationships in later life, based on the mother-child relationship of their infancy. Therefore, the mother's presence is crucial, and the quality of the mother-child relationship is important in the development of the child. In the present study, we evaluated the quality of the mother-child relationship from the emotional intelligence scores of the mothers, and demonstrated its relationship with problem behavior in young children.

Emotional intelligence received much attention since the 1995 publication of D. Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to skillfully manage one's emotions. This ability is not only important for individuals to lead a healthy life and be true to themselves, but also for developing and maintaining stable and constructive interpersonal relationships. Emotional intelligence also plays a significant role in adapting to fast-changing modern society and to actively contributing to society. The scientific study of emotional intelligence has its roots in studies of the Intelligence Quotient. More attention has been paid to the idea that various aspects of intelligence are related to emotions, based on the view that only focusing on intellectual ability can not properly evaluate intelligence, and that a more comprehensive and multi-faceted view was needed.

Emotional intelligence includes not only social intelligence and the practical ability to understand other people's emotions and behavior, and to control them, but also the ability to sense one's own emotions and behavior and to regulate them skillfully. Therefore, enhancing emotional intelligence makes it possible to promote and maintain the soundness, and physical and mental health of individuals and groups (Ciarrochi, Forgas, & Mayer, 2001).

The interplay of emotions relevant to emotional intelligence starts with the bilateral relationship that develops soon after the birth of a child. For the infant, the other party in the bilateral relationship is the person who raises him or her. This is normally the mother. The interaction between the mother and child at infancy is primarily controlled by the mother. If the mother possesses a great deal of sensitivity, a very natural emotional exchange with her child becomes possible. Such sensitivity in the mother comes not only from her latent potential but is also acquired through her past experiences, current situation, etc. A mother with a rich sensitivity develops a thoughtful relationship with her child.

The infant's behavior will start to follow a pattern that is built up through its relationship with the mother. Children who grow up knowing that their mothers will respond to them have no problems in exploring new environments. Even when their mood is disturbed, these children seek their mothers immediately and regain composure. …

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