Mar 31, 2017

Misbehavior and aggression

Aggressive behavior and interpersonal conflicts among children and youth continue to be common problems in educational systems across the globe. Therefore, many emotional training programs have been developed in the school context with the aim of improving social and emotional learning in children and adolescents. Although these programs cannot be regarded as pure EI training, they target some of the components of the EI construct. A recent meta-analysis by Durlak et al. (2011) on social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, consisting of 213 studies involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students, revealed significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance. The overall effect size was = 0.30, highest for social skills 0.57, and lower for the components more close to the EI ability construct (0.22 – 0.24). Trained students demonstrated enhanced SEL skills, attitudes, and positive social behaviors and also demonstrated fewer conduct problems and had lower levels of emotional distress. The effect sizes remained significant also at follow-up.

The number of studies designed within the EI theoretical framework is less prominent (e.g., Bagheri et al., 2016;  Castillio et al., 2013; Hojjat et al., 2017;  Ruiz-Aranda et al., 2012). Most often used was the INTEMO project (Castillio et al., 2013; Ruiz-Aranda et al., 2012). It consists of four groups of interventions with core training procedures and supplementation activities:
  1. Perception, appraisal and expression of emotion. Students are asked to work in groups to identify the emotions shown in specific pictures and deducing some emotional clues in hypothetical scenarios, according to theoretical evidences.
  2. Emotional facilitation of thinking. Induced are different types of emotions through music, poems, stories, etc. The classroom then continues to work in two teams in which they debate and brainstorm the meaning of several uncertain questions or abstract designs. The responses are evaluated with respect to their usefulness.
  3. Understanding and analyzing emotions and employing emotional knowledge. In this activity the trainer displays a great amount of emotional vocabulary according to seven emotional types (e.g., happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise and shame). Students must match every emotional word according to its meaning into the appropriate emotional category.
  4. Reflective regulation of emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth. Debated are effective and ineffective regulation strategies. Students are assigned an emotion and they are asked to think about situations that have made them feel well and note what strategies have been used to reduce, avoid or increase such emotions. Then, they are asked to fit the regulation strategies into four quadrants (Coping  versus Avoidance and Thought versus Behavior)
The program has been carried out in two Spanish samples: (1) 147 (69 control group) randomly selected and distributed students attending secondary school (mean age = 14 years) (Ruiz-Aranda et al., 2012), and (2) 590 (229 control group) adolescents (mean age = 14 years) (Castillio et al., 2013). Both studies revealed that students who participated in the INTEMO program reported better psychosocial adjustment (e.g., lower levels of depression and anxiety, less atypicality, somatization, and social stress, and higher self-esteem) compared to students in the control group. The study by Castillio et al. (2013) additionally showed that the EI program was particularly effective for males’ empathic abilities.

In the Bagheri et al. (2016) study, the sample consisted of undergraduate students of law, mechanical engineering, computer and civil engineering from a university in Iran. There were 60 participants in the training group and 30 in the control group. The EI training course was based on the ability EI theoretical framework similar to the INTEMO. The training involved six sessions of two and half hours spread over six weeks. The results indicated that the experimental group had a significant increase in emotion regulation, utilization, the appraisal of emotions and emotional intelligence scores between pre- and post-test.

The EI training by Nelis et al. (2011) targeted emotional competencies in adult individuals. Conducted were two studies – the first evaluated the effectiveness of the training by relying on tests measuring near transfer effects, while in the second study also far transfer effects (e.g., mental disorders, somatic complaints, happiness, life satisfaction, global social functioning and employability) were analyzed. The training was designed to enhance specific emotional competences, such as understanding emotions, identifying one’s own emotions, identifying others’ emotions, regulating one’s own emotions, regulating others’ emotions, and using positive emotions to foster well-being. These competences were introduced to participants in short lectures, role-playing games, group discussions, and work in dyads. The results of both studies showed that participants in the EI training group reported a significant improvement of their physical health, mental health, happiness, life satisfaction, and global social functioning. Likewise, employability also increased following the EI intervention, as a diverse panel of human resource professionals were more likely to hire participants after the training.

EI training interventions have also been designed to target specific vulnerable subgroups. Hojjat et al. (2017) analyzed the effectiveness of emotional intelligence group training on anger in adolescents with substance-abusing fathers. The sample consisted of 60 high school boys in the city of Bojnurd in northeastern Iran. The training consisted of 7 sessions providing information on emotions, understanding their meaning, the effects of extreme emotions on behavior, reviewing the necessity of managing emotions and developing emotion control skills. The results of this study indicated that training for emotional intelligence skills was effective in reducing anger in adolescents with substance-abusing fathers. The training was effective in all four areas of trait anger, state anger, anger control-in, and anger control-out.

This brief review indicates that ability EI-based interventions, as well as the more broadly designed training of social and emotional learning, show substantial positive effects on aggressive behavior and reduce misbehavior in the classroom.


Bagheri, Z., Kosnin, A. M., & Besharat, M. A. (2016). Improving Emotion Regulation skills through an Emotional Intelligence Training Course. Retrieved from

Castillo, R., Salguero, J. M., Fern├índez-Berrocal, P., & Balluerka, N. (2013). Effects of an emotional intelligence intervention on aggression and empathy among adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 36(5), 883–892.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2010). To appear in Child Development (In press). Retrieved from’_social_and_emotional_learning_a_meta-analysis_of_school-based_universal_interventions/links/09e4150edd42ebba38000000.pdf

Hojjat, S. K., Rezaei, M., Namadian, G., Hatami, S. E., & Norozi Khalili, M. (2017). Effectiveness of Emotional Intelligence Group Training on Anger in Adolescents With Substance-Abusing Fathers. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 26(1), 24–29.

Nelis, D., Kotsou, I., Quoidbach, J., Hansenne, M., Weytens, F., Dupuis, P., & Mikolajczak, M. (2011). Increasing emotional competence improves psychological and physical well-being, social relationships, and employability. Emotion, 11(2), 354–366.

Ruiz-Aranda, D., Salguero, J. M., Cabello, R., Palomera, R., & -Berrocal, P. F. (2012). Can an Emotional Intelligence Program Improve Adolescents’ Psychosocial Adjustment? Results from the Intemo Project. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 40(8), 1373–1379.

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