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Study: Emotional intelligence improves school performance

Kids who better understand and manage their emotions perform better in school, according to a new study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychological Bulletin.

“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,” says lead author and University of Sydney researcher Carolyn MacCann.

“It’s not enough to be smart and hardworking. Students must also be able to understand and manage their emotions to succeed at school,” says MacCann.

Academic research on emotional intelligence is relatively new, dating to the 1990s, according to MacCann. MacCann and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 160 studies, representing more than 42,000 students from 27 countries, published between 1998 and 2019.

The elementary school to college-age students with higher emotional intelligence tended to get higher grades and better achievement test scores than those with lower emotional intelligence scores. This held true even when controlling for intelligence and personality factors.

“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,” MacCann says. “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.”

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