Perceived social support, emotional intelligence and self-concept improve school achievement

Teachers and the family are crucial in school adjustment, according to a study by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country

  • Research

First publication date: 07/01/2019

Oihane Fernández Lasarte. Photo: Nuria González. UPV/EHU.

The researcher Oihane Fernández-Lasarte of the UPV/EHU’s PSIKOR research group has explored the variability of emotional intelligence and school achievement or adjustment on the basis of sex and age during adolescence and young adulthood. The results confirm significant differences in favour of boys in emotional intelligence and girls in school adjustment.

“Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to perceive, understand and regulate one’s emotions and is a significant variable to be taken into consideration in pupils’ school development and adjustment,” said Oihane Fernández-Lasarte, a researcher in the UPV/EHU’s PSIKOR research group. She also went on to add that “perceived social support and self-concept are also variables associated with pupils’ school success”.

So this study has focussed on analysing how emotional intelligence and the school achievement or adjustment variables vary depending on sex and age and to examine the correlations between them all; at the same time, school adjustment variables have been found to depend largely on self-concept and emotional intelligence and have all been found to depend on the perceived support of teachers, family and friendships. “1894 students in secondary education and at the UPV/EHU participated because we regard adolescence and young adulthood as stages with a huge number of changes on different levels and which may entail the risk of maladjustment and the need for personal, social and school adaptation,” explained the UPV/EHU researcher.

The results confirm significant differences in favour of boys in emotional intelligence and girls in school adjustment. “While girls score higher in emotional intelligence, boys display greater emotional clarity and repair,” stressed Oihane Fernández-Lasarte. Furthermore, “it is girls who display greater academic achievement, better school integration both with respect to the teachers and the students and even higher academic expectations”. In this respect, the author of the work points to the possible influence of gender stereotyping, the result of socialisation and education that expects these qualities from girls and boys. That is why she stresses that educational work is needed to break these gender stereotypes.

In general, “the fall in the scores of these values during secondary education and their recovery or improvement among young adults at university has been confirmed,” said Fernández-Lasarte. “It is worth pointing out that a new fall in emotional involvement among young adults at university takes place unexpectedly and emerges as a loss of motivation, a lack of interest, etc.”

Likewise, most of the variables are correlated in the anticipated direction: the greater the support from teachers, family and friends is, the greater the students’ school adjustment is; the greater self-concept is, the greater school adjustment or achievement is; and as emotional intelligence increases, so school adjustment improves as well.

Another contribution of this work is the strength displayed by self-concept as a psychological variable that determines school adjustment, while emotional intelligence alone is unable to account for school adjustment. In other words, “emotional intelligence alone does not influence school achievement or adjustment, which was the anticipated outcome; self-concept is needed. If emotional intelligence improves and if self-concept can also be improved, in this case school adjustment improves significantly,” pointed out the UPV/EHU researcher.

Finally, the researcher highlights the importance that teachers exert in the students’ school adjustment variables, as well as the importance of the family in the psychological variables (emotional intelligence and self-concept) of their offspring. Therefore, “it is advisable to consider these results so that each player in education can attach special attention towards working on the variables on which they exert the greatest influence,” said Oihane Fernández Lasarte.


Additional information

This research was carried out within the framework of the PhD thesis by Oihane Fernández-Lasarte (Mutriku, 1979), entitled Inteligencia emocional y ajuste escolar en la adolescencia y juventud (Emotional Intelligence and School Adjustment during Adolescence and Young Adulthood).  Her PhD supervisors were Eider Goñi-Palacios and Igor Camino-Ortiz de Barrón of the Department of Evolutionary Psychology and Education and the Department of the Theory and History of Education, respectively, at the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Education and Sport.