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Students Do Better in School When They Can Manage Emotions, Study Says

Students Do Better in School When They Can Manage Emotions, Study Says

Learning how to recognize one’s emotions and then how to manage them (also known as emotional intelligence) is a great way to set yourself up for success. It’s a skill that can help you get along with people, build relationships, solve problems and more. Now, a study is finding that kids with higher emotional intelligence also tend to do better in school.

According to research published by the American Psychological Association in the journal Psychological Bulletin, students with higher emotional intelligence do better in school - in terms of grades and standardized test scores - than their peers. The researchers looked at data from over 160 studies published between 1998 and 2019. Combined, they included over 42,000 students across 27 countries, over 76 percent of which were English-speaking. The students in these studies range from elementary school to college. This finding held true even when the researchers looked at controls for intelligence and personality factors, such as age.

“Although we know that high intelligence and a conscientious personality are the most important psychological traits necessary for academic success, our research highlights a third factor, emotional intelligence, that may also help students succeed,” Carolyn MacCann, Ph.D. and lead author of the study, stated in a press release. “It’s not enough to be smart and hardworking. Students must also be able to understand and manage their emotions to succeed at school.”

MacCann believes there are multiple factors that could affect how emotional intelligence affects academic success. “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,” she said in the release. “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.”

According to MacCann, research centered around emotional intelligence is relatively new, having begun in the 1990s. She believes the study’s findings might provide the first comprehensive analysis on whether emotional intelligence influences academic success. However, she cautions against widespread testing to gauge students’ emotional intelligence, as this could create a stigma. Instead, her advice is to host more school-wide interventions and offer additional training from teachers.

“Programs that integrate emotional skill development into the existing curriculum would be beneficial, as research suggests that training works better when run by teachers rather than external specialists,” she said. “Increasing skills for everyone - not just those with low emotional intelligence - would benefit everyone.”

Building your child’s ability to recognize and manage their emotions could help set them up for success in school and beyond. If you’re wondering what you can do to help raise an emotionally intelligent child, check out our tips.
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