13. How to predict wellness in grade 10 adolescents

Summarised by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and author of "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions."

This article summarises a research paper "On being aware and accepting: A one-year longitudinal study into adolescent well-being".

It was written by Professor Joseph Ciarrochi from the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia and Todd B. Kashdan, Peter Leeson, Patrick Heaven & Carlie Jordan.

It was published in the Journal of Adolescence, Volume 34, Issue 4, August 2011, Pages 695–703.


Can mindfulness, emotional awareness & experiential acceptance predict the well-being of Grade 10 adolescents over a one year period?

This study aimed to:

  1. Evaluate the extent that mindful awareness, emotional awareness and experiential acceptance can predict longitudinal changes in emotional well-being in grade 10 adolescents.
  2. Determine whether the awareness and acceptance variables predict changes in well-being over and above the other variables.
  3. Examine the extent of correlation between the variables of awareness and acceptance and personality constructs.

Emotional intelligence study subjects 

  • A total of 776 students (male 388, female 386; 2 unreported; mean age 15.4) completed the first round of assessments.
  • 572 students (male 269, female 301; 2 unreported; mean age 16.18) completed the second round.
  • Students were in grade 10 on commencement and 11 on completion.
  • They attended five Catholic high schools in New South Wales, Australia.
  • They came from the City of Wollongong (population about 250,000) as well as south-western Sydney thereby ensuring some diversity of socio-economic standing.

Emotional intelligence study methods

Students were surveyed in the middle of Grades 10 and 11.

All subjects completed measures of:

  1. Mindfulness, (focusing one's attention on present moment experience with an attitude of openness and curiosity). They considered two aspects of mindfulness: acting with awareness and observing experience. Used twenty items taken from the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure (CAMM-20).
  2. Emotional awareness, (awareness of feelings and the ability to label those feelings). This was measured using twelve items from the Toronto Alexithymia Scale.
  3. Experiential acceptance or psychological flexibility. This is a measure designed specifically for evaluating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It refers to an individual’s ability to connect fully with the present moment as a conscious human being, and to change or persist in behaviour that is in line with their identified values. The 17-item Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire was used.
  4. Major personality traits. They used the 12-item revision of Eysenck's original Psychoticism scale for youth, and "The Big Five" was measured using the ten-item International Personality Item Pool scales.

In addition, assessments of emotional well-being were completed across a 1-year interval in order to study prospective changes. They used the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule - Expanded Form (PANAS-X).

Emotional intelligence study results

Analyses revealed that 3 aspects were linked to prosocial tendencies and predicted increases in well-being across the year. These were:

  1. One aspect of mindfulness: acting with awareness, (engaging fully in one’s current activity with undivided attention).
  2. Emotional awareness.
  3. Experiential acceptance.

Observing experience (noticing, observing, and attending to a variety of stimuli) was correlated with positive and negative aspects of personality and did not predict changes in wellbeing.

Emotional intelligence study conclusions & the future

A study is only as good as the assessments it uses. I say this simply because it is easy to forget this and yet it is very important.

I wondered whether the measures used did comprehensively or accurately cover well-being or mindfulness, for example.

I do think it is a very important area of research, especially given the increasing neuro-scientific research demonstrating the value of mindfulness practice in adults and its increasing introduction into the school curriculum.

(See the work of Richard Davidson and Dan Siegel, for example, for the neuroscience. Geelong Grammar is one of many schools now using mindfulness in its classrooms, and it's being introduced at kindergarten level in selected schools in Canada & the USA, for example.)

Also well-being in adolescents is a very important area, given the high suicide rates and other problems in this age group, in Australia.

The researchers state:

  1. Awareness and acceptance are complex constructs that might not be fully captured by self-report. Indeed, if someone lacks awareness, then it is also possible that they may be unaware of being unaware.
  2. Future research is needed to develop more behaviourally-based measures of awareness and acceptance, in both adolescents and adults.
  3. The study does provide support for the importance of awareness and acceptance in the development of well-being in adolescents.
  4. Awareness and acceptance are correlated with all dimensions of well-being, and with the general tendency to experience fewer negative states (or neuroticism).
  5. The longitudinal component showed that awareness and acceptance preceded decreases in sadness, fear, and hostility, and increases in positive affect. This suggests that awareness and acceptance play a causal role in well-being.
  6. Future research should seek to increase AWA, emotional awareness, and experiential acceptance individually and to observe the influence of changes in these variables on future outcomes.

Click here to read the full article.

Develop your school's emotional intelligence

There is so much that your leadership team can do to develop their emotional intelligence and the emotional intelligence of their school. We have a number of options to help:

  1. There is a series of emotional intelligence workshops, including: "Mastering emotional intelligence". 
  2. There is an emotional intelligence 2 DVD program "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions".
  3. We provide a face-to-face 5 star emotional intelligence coaching package which can be conducted online or in our Kelmscott office.
  4. Emotional intelligence asessments can be conducted using the MSCEIT.
  5. We can also bring a whole emotional intelligence programme to your entire school for your students and teachers, under the guidance of Professor Con Stough.

For more details, or to make a booking, e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.

Develop the emotional intelligence of your teachers now and be an emotionally intelligent school.

Thanks to istockphoto for the photo