Emotional intelligence and psychological resilience to negative life events

Armstrong, A. R., Galligan, R. F. & Critchley, C. R. (2011), Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 331-336

Resilience is often defined as the ability to bounce back from life’s disappointments. The commonly used term appears in parenting forums and school culture, where resilience in childhood is acknowledged as a desirable attribute. As such, it is important to have a clear understanding of the abilities and skills involved in the development of resilience. Resilience is thought to be influenced by both internal (e.g. coping skills) and external (e.g. access to resources) elements. This article shines a light on the potential for developing the resilience of an individual by developing an internal skill set such as Emotional Intelligence (EI). The article is the product of collaboration between researchers at the Department of Clinical Research at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris, France and researchers at Swinburne University in Melbourne. The research asks two questions; “are there specific types of people when it comes to the way in which individuals experience distress in the wake of negative life events?” The second question asks “are people with higher levels of EI more resilient to the impact of negative life events?”

Discussing psychological resilience in concrete terms, as the level of distress experienced in response to negative life events, this research finds support for three groupings of individuals who vary in terms of their resilience. The paper goes on to not only identify EI as a set of abilities that changes across the groups but to recognise EI as a protective factor when coping with adverse life events. Given the particular EI abilities identified in those considered to be more resilient, it is important to consider the benefits of the systematic development of EI. For children, this is a process that can be started in early childhood and continue on into adulthood. These findings are therefore relevant to schools and educational institutions for their potential to provide structured support and guidance in the development of emotional competencies throughout crucial developmental stages.