Students who can understand and manage their emotions effectively can perform better at school than their less skilled peers, according to a study which suggests the inclusion of emotional skill development to existing school curriculum. The study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, noted that emotional intelligence is an important psychological trait, necessary for academic success, along with high intelligence, and a conscientious personality.
The researchers, including those from the University of Sydney in Australia, analysed data from more than 160 studies representing more than 42,000 students from 27 countries published between 1998 and 2019.
More than three-fourths of the data was from English-speaking countries, with the students ranging in age from elementary school to college. The findings of the study revealed that students with higher emotional intelligence tended to get higher grades and better test scores than those with lower emotional intelligence scores.
According to the researchers, the findings held true even when controlling for intelligence, age, and personality factors.
"Students with higher emotional intelligence may be better able to manage negative emotions, such as anxiety, boredom and disappointment, that can negatively affect academic performance," said study co-author Carolyn MacCann from the University of Sydney.
"Also, these students may be better able to manage the social world around them, forming better relationships with teachers, peers and family, all of which are important to academic success," she added.
According to MacCann, the skills required for emotional intelligence such as understanding human motivation and emotion may overlap with the skills required to master certain subjects like history and language, giving students an advantage in those subject areas.
However, she cautioned against widespread testing of students to identify and target those with low emotional intelligence as this may stigmatize the students.
The University of Sydney scientist said interventions involving the whole school, such as additional teacher training, and a focus on teacher well-being could be better options in cultivating emotional skills in students.
"Increasing skills for everyone not just those with low emotional intelligence would benefit everyone," she said.