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The influence of emotional intelligence (EI) on coping and mental health in adolescence: Divergent roles for trait and ability EI

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Theoretically, trait and ability emotional intelligence (EI) should mobilise coping processes to promote adaptation, plausibly operating as personal resources determining choice and/or implementation of coping style. However, there is a dearth of
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  POST PRINT COPY: This   is the author's version of the manuscript that has been accepted for publication and includes any author-incorporated changes suggested through the processes of submission, peer review and editor-author communications Full reference: Davis, S.K., & Humphrey, N. (2012). he influence !f em!"i!nal in"elli#ence ($%) !n c!pin# an men"al heal"h in a!lescence: Diver#en" r!les f!r "rai" an a'ili"y $%. Journal of Adolescence, 35  (), 1*+1-+. D%: 10.101*/.a!lescence.2012.0.00- Corresponding author (formally at the University of Manchester): Sarah.davis@worc.ac.uk r Sarah ! avis" #sychological Sciences" University of $orcester" %enwick &rove" $orcester" $' *+ ,-- /012/3 43356 's"rac" 7heoretically" trait and a8ility emotional intelligence (9) should mo8ilise coping processes to promote adaptation" plausi8ly operating as personal resources determining choice and;or implementation of coping style. %owever" there is a dearth of research deconstructing if;how 9 impacts mental health via multiple coping strategies in adolescence. Using path analysis" the current study specified a series of multiple<mediation and conditional effects models to systematically e=plore interrelations 8etween coping" 9" depression and disruptive 8ehaviour in 6-4 adolescents (mean age > 15.3 years? SD  > 1.). 'esults indicated that whilst a8ility 9 influences mental health via fle=i8le selection  of coping strategies" trait 9 modifies coping effectiveness;  specifically" high levels of trait 9 amplify the 8eneficial effects of active coping and minimise the effects of avoidant coping to reduce symptomotology. %owever" effects were selective with respect to coping style and outcome. mplications for interventions are discussed alongside directions for future research.  Key!rs: emotional intelligence? coping? mental health? depression? disruptive 8ehaviour? adolescence %n"r!uc"i!n nterest in emotional intelligence (9) < a construct that captures individual differences in identifying" processing and regulating emotion (eidner" Matthews" A 'o8erts" //2) B continues to intensify given empirical links to a variety of adaptational outcomes (rackett" 'ivers" A Salovey" /11) and recent evidence suggesting that 9 can 8e improved via targeted training in adults (Delis et al." /11) and through school<8ased programmes in youth (urlak" $eiss8erg" ymnicki" 7aylor" A Schellinger" /11). 7he 8roader construct can 8e differentiated in line with two distinct methods of assessment? considered as a cluster of emotion<related self- perceptions/dispositions  evaluated via self<report" 9 is termed EtraitF emotional intelligence (79) (#etrides" #ita" A !okkinaki" //6)" whereas direct assessment of actual     proficiency   in perceiving" understanding" using and managing emotion through measures of ma=imal performance" is considered reflective of Ea8ilityF emotional intelligence (*9) (Mayer" Salovey" A Caruso" //4). 'esearch supports this distinction? negligi8le associations have 8een reported 8etween measures of *9 and 79 in adults (e.g." rackett A Mayer" //5) and adolescents (avis A  %umphrey" /1). 7he two conceptualisations are regarded as complementary < explicit   socio<emotional skill might underpin 8ut not necessarily translate into optimal Eon<lineF functioning where implicit   factors (e.g." emotional self<efficacy) often play a role (MikolaGcHak" //2). 7hus" it is of importance to assess how trait and a8ility 9 independently influence adaptational outcomes. ! and "ental #ealth t is postulated that 8oth forms of 9 should confer adaptive advantages for psychological health? EintelligentF utilisation of emotion<related skills should promote efficient regulation of affect (Salovey A Mayer" 122/)" whilst positive perceptions of competency to handle emotion<laden situations" should facilitate optimal appraisal and response across conte=ts (#etrides" #ita et al." //6). ndeed" there is now ro8ust evidence supporting such a link 8etween 9 and mental health in general (Martins" 'amalho" A Morin" /1/). Specifically" higher *9 appears most strongly related to lower levels of externalising  symptomotology (e.g." rackett" Mayer" A $arner" //-)" whereas 79 appears to 8e a 8etter predictor of internalising  disorders (e.g." &ardner A Iualter" /1/)" though" of the two" relationships 8etween 79 and 8oth types of outcome appear more ro8ust (e.g." avis A %umphrey" /1? $illiams" aley" urnside" A %ammond<'owley" //2).   Devertheless" research aimed at unpacking the processes underpinning these relationships < e=amining how and when (9 influences adaptation < is still at an em8ryonic stage (eidner et al." //2)" particularly in relation to adolescents.  t has 8een proposed that 9 might 8uffer stress 8y promoting positive ways of coping which" in turn" lead to successful adaptation (!eefer" #arker" A Saklofske" //2). mportantly" coping (  purposeful   efforts 8y the individual to regulate emotion" cognition" 8ehaviour" physiology" and the environment in response to stressors < Compas" Connor<Smith" SaltHman" 7homsen" A $adsworth" //1)" has emerged as a significant mediator of a variety of stressor<symptom relationships in youth populations (see" &rant et al." //" for a review). Since coping processes are dependent upon the (successful) operationalisation of key personal competencies;resources (Compas et al." //1)" these could well 8e represented 8y 9" construed as either a skill set located as the intersection of cognition and emotion" or as our Eemotional personalityF. ivergent roles are implied in the literature? whereas *9 is hypothesised to temporally  precede  8roader coping efforts 8y influencing initial emotional arousal to stressors (Salovey" edell" etweiler" A Mayer" 1222)" consistent with personality theory" 79 is viewed Jas central to the development and implementation of successful coping mechanismsK (#etrides" #ereH<&onHaleH" A Lurnham" //6" p.2). Conseuently" e=plicit emotional skill;knowledge (*9) may drive the selection  of coping strategies whilst implicit emotional self<competency (79) may determine coping efficacy  .  $oping, ! and "ental #ealth  *s coping is a highly conte=tualised" dynamic process there are no universally EadaptiveF coping strategies that can 8e statically applied across all individuals and stressful situations (Carver A Connor<Smith" /1/). Devertheless" 8roadly speaking" pro8lem<focussed or engagement strategies (e.g." reappraisal" support seeking) are reportedly advantageous over emotion<focussed or disengagement approaches (e.g." avoidance? wishful thinking) in reducing e=ternalising and internalising symptomotology in youth (Compas et al." //1? Seiffge<!renke" /11). Cross<sectional associations 8etween 9 and coping styles suggest that higher 79 is associated most ro8ustly with increased use of such EadaptiveF pro8lem<oriented styles and" to a lesser magnitude" decreased use of EmaladaptiveF emotional and avoidant coping (e.g." adults: MikolaGcHak" Delis" %ansenne" A Iuoid8ach" //4? youth: MikolaGcHak" #etrides" A %urry" //2). Conversely" *9 appears to relate most strongly to reduced use of avoidance and emotional styles rather than increased use of pro8lem<focussed coping (e.g." adults: MacCann" Logarty" eidner" A 'o8erts" /11? youth: #eters" !ranHler" A 'ossen" //2). Skill in managing emotion is most consistently implicated in these associations" whereas perceiving emotion appears the least influential su8<skill. %owever" very few studies have e=plored mediating links 8etween 9" coping and mental health and research has e=clusively focussed upon the 79 perspective. Devertheless" in adolescents" evidence suggests that lower   79 can 8e linked to poorer adGustment through increased   use of avoidant and emotional coping styles (8ut not decreased use of pro8lem<focussed styles) B when EadGustmentF is inde=ed via general psychological distress (Chan" //3)" engagement in self<harming 8ehaviours (MikolaGcHak et al." //2)" and self<reported e=ternalising and
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