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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 303-309

Impact of social-emotional learning intervention on emotional intelligence of adolescents

Department of Psychology, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission03-Mar-2020
Date of Decision11-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance10-May-2020
Date of Web Publication31-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Ms. Shruthi Kothari
74/75, Gajapathy Street, Shenoy Nagar, Chennai - 600 030, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijsp.ijsp_28_20

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Adolescents face a variety of challenges, some of which include social, emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal. In order to help them with their emotions, adolescents should be taught a variety of skills to regulate and handle emotions better. With this intent in mind, a social-emotional learning (SEL) intervention module was developed by the researchers. This module covered aspects related to self-awareness, social awareness, responsibility, empathy and decision-making. These components also form the basis for emotional intelligence (EI) which is defined as the ability to perceive, understand, and regulate emotions of oneself and others. The present study aimed to understand if there arises any difference in scores of EI post the SEL intervention. Second, the gender differences with respect to EI were also be analyzed. The EI Scale (2014) was administered to 80 students between the age group of 13–14 years, from a CBSE school in Chennai. These adolescents were selected through the convenience sampling, and the four subscales were also analyzed. The findings from the study revealed a significant difference in scores from pretest to posttest (t = −4.66, P < 0.05). With respect to gender, no significant difference was found. On the subscales, two of four subscales showed significant difference in understanding emotions (Z = −4.63, P < 0.05) and handling emotions (Z = −4.023, P < 0.05).

Keywords: Adolescents, emotional intelligence, gender, socialemotional learning

How to cite this article:
Kothari S, Wesley MS. Impact of social-emotional learning intervention on emotional intelligence of adolescents. Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2020;36:303-9

How to cite this URL:
Kothari S, Wesley MS. Impact of social-emotional learning intervention on emotional intelligence of adolescents. Indian J Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 28];36:303-9. Available from: https://www.indjsp.org/text.asp?2020/36/4/303/305944

  Introduction Top

In the world of technology and advancement, adolescents face a lot of changes, physically, emotionally and mentally, and it is important to understand these, to help them manage their stressors more effectively. Adolescence is seen as a distinct phase of the developmental life cycle in humans and other animal species.[1] With special emphasis to the transition that occurs at this stage, it is seen as a stage rather than an event, therefore emotional well-being plays an important role. With most schools in India, emphasizing the importance of academics only, their holistic growth is hindered.

Such a transformation in the educational system of today requires schools to move toward developing in students a desire and ability to critically reflect upon the happenings around them. With most classrooms offering negligible levels of training in SEL, it is estimated that about 15%–22% adolescents have problems relating to social-emotional difficulties prior interventions.[2] Such an awareness demands that the student be equipped with growth of character and a sense of self, to solve their own problems and look at the society as a whole. Research in this area questions the need for social-emotional skills to be taught and they concluded that having emotional intelligence (EI) skills lead to a greater sense of social, academic, and life success, making students more equipped to deal with stressors. More importantly, the researchers emphasized that through social-emotional learning (SEL), student's EI is bolstered, giving them an edge in personal and future endeavors.[3]

With this intent in mind, the purpose of a SEL framework in schools becomes very crucial. SEL is thus defined as “the process of integrating thinking, feeling, and behaving to become aware of the self and of others, make responsible decisions, and manage one's own behaviors and those of others.”[2] There are five core competencies that are identified with SEL include:

  1. Self-awareness which essentially deals with assessing one's feelings accurately
  2. Self-management which describes the ability to regulate one's emotions to handle stress and work toward personal growth by the display of appropriate emotions
  3. Social awareness which works toward empathizing and recognizing others' emotions and perspectives
  4. Relationship skills which strive toward effective communication and teamwork
  5. Decision-making which imply the need to rationally make decisions based on consequences and keeping in mind one's well-being.

Organizations within India are now beginning to dwell on the importance of an affective domain, with a focus on enhancing specific abilities such as self-awareness, decision-making, self-regulation, and confidence. One such initiative started by child and adolescent psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health And Neuro-Sciences, in collaboration with other educators and practitioners is called the Indian School of Social-Emotional Framework and is said to be in action from May 2019. The involvement of teachers in implementing an SEL curriculum has been crucial.[2],[4],[5],[6] Research on the effects of a SEL curriculum on academics suggest that when students are aware of their own self, they are better able to look at other people's perspectives, have a heightened learning experience and accept other people. When students have the opportunity to increase their social-emotional literacy in middle school, there is a greater chance that there will be higher levels of academic engagement in high school with overall percentile improvement, improved classroom behavior, increased ability to manage stress, and improved attitudes about themselves and others.[7],[8]

The long-term benefits of using SEL have been vast, and no single intervention module is used and models such as Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, responsive classroom approach and Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, have been used to deliver SEL. Studies found that SEL intervention programs for kindergarten students impacted their adult lives and led to fewer psychological, behavioral, and substance-related problems at 25 years of age.[9],[10],[11]

Connecting the concept of SEL to understand the EI of an adolescent is necessary, as adolescents need social and emotional help, as biological and hormonal changes within the individual cause a lot of disturbances. This further leads to a lowered stability, thus requiring better regulation and management of emotions. Thus, an important aspect which is that of EI, defined as the ability to monitor one's own emotions and that of others, to be able to distinguish emotions and label them correctly and use this information to guide your thinking, is looked into. According to Salovey and Mayer's model of intelligence,[12] there are four dimensions that form a hierarchy of emotional skills and abilities which include perceiving emotion, using emotions to facilitate thought, understanding emotion, and managing emotions.

The need to study SEL, especially in the Indian context, stems from the fact that there is less emphasis on these aspects and children more often do not know how to deal with a mixture of emotions, when confronted and how effectively they could deal with it. Poor social-emotional regulation increases the risk of suicides and other psychological problems in adolescents as a result of undergoing change. SEL could thus be used to improve the quality of life among adolescents, helping them balance academic and social life in an effective manner, as emotional development lies at the heart of life-span development.

The present study aims to find out that whether implementing a SEL intervention will affect the EI of adolescents. The significance of this study is to help students understand the transitional changes that occur and how they can better adapt to these changes. There exists a gap in promoting effective SEL interventions in India, especially in schools, where academics is given more importance. The research gap that predominantly exists is that studies done in the past focus more on the role of SEL on academic achievement, than in predicting EI. Studies done in the past have also mostly relied on children, rather than adolescents and this is an important arena to explore. Past intervention target the mindset of children rather than helping them deal with emotions and how to regulate them, and this paves way for more research in this area. Previous studies also look at the long-term benefits of SEL, and this study aims to study the effectiveness of a shorter intervention on the impact of EI. Finally, SEL aims to target effective classroom interactions with teachers, rather than peers, and thus this needs to be worked on.

Thus, the objectives of the current study include examining if any differences arise due to an SEL intervention on the scores of EI in middle school adolescents. Secondly, gender differences in terms of these changes will also be studied. The subscales will be analyzed to check the differences in scores from pretest to posttest.

  Methodology Top


The sample comprised 80 eighth grade students (40 males and 40 females), who were currently pursuing formal education in a CBSE school. The participants ranged in age from 13 to 14 years. All the participants were residents of Chennai. Students obtaining grades from A to C were enrolled. These were the only grades seen throughout the sample and hence were included. The participants had both parents present at their home, and single-parent families were excluded. The method obtained to derive the sample was convenience sampling. No drop-outs were present.

Research design

The research design used was a quantitative design focusing on a within-subjects type. The participants were tested on the EI questionnaire before the intervention, and following the intervention, they were again tested on the same, employing a quasi-experimental design using prepost type of study design.

Tools used

The EI Scale-SANS developed by Singh and Narain, from the Patna University in Bihar was published in the year 2014. This scale was developed based on work in EI by Mayer and Salovey. The scale can be used for ages 12 and above. The four dimensions that this scale measures include:

  1. Understanding Emotions: An individual's capacity to identify the emotions in one's and other's physical states, feelings, and thoughts
  2. Understanding motivation: A high achievement drive together with the tendency to be optimistic and take initiative
  3. Empathy: Ability to understand how other people feel
  4. Handling emotions: To be able to manage emotions in a better way.

The intervention module used was conducted thrice a week for a period of 60–90 min, developed and executed by the researcher herself. The intervention was broadly divided into three phases: Introduction and Rapport building, Middle phase, and end phase. Each phase had a devised set of activities for the day. The activities scheduled for the same is attached in the [Appendix 1]. These activities tapped the various domains of SEL, with the rationale and debriefing for the same provided in the [Appendix 1]. The aim of the intervention was to inculcate the values of the SEL framework, thereby developing competencies and learning those skills. Applying these in various settings was the broader objective of the study, and during the intervention, these were applied. Thus, suggestions and the need for improvement were suggested during the session, and the adolescents were asked to practice this both at home and school. An oral, subjective follow-up was done after 1 month to see if the adolescents continued to practice what was taught, and subjective reports of both students and the teacher said that they did adhere to the guidelines.

Reliability and validity

The test re-test reliability was calculated on a sample of (n = 100) and was found to be 0.86 alpha coefficient. The concurrent validity was found to be 0.86, and the scale was correlated against the EI Scale developed by Hyde.


School authorities were approached and briefed about the research study, and permission to conduct the research was sought. The schools then responded with details of those students who were willing to participate. The study was conducted in a CBSE school in Chennai during the month of April, 2019, with the intervention being conducted thrice a week for a period of 60–90 min, by the researcher herself. The intervention was broadly divided into three phases: Introduction and Rapport building, Middle phase, and end phase. Each phase had a devised set of activities for the day. The activities scheduled for the same is attached in the [Appendix 1].

Data analysis

The analysis involved both descriptive and inferential statistics, descriptive statistics used to calculate percentage, mean and standard deviation. Since the design was a within group one, paired sample t-test was used to find out if there is any significant change after the intervention. To assess the differences in gender, a repeated measures ANOVA was used. For the subscale differences, Wilcoxin signed-rank test was used.

Ethical considerations

The researcher requested permission from the authorities of the school board before the social emotional intervention. The data collected from the participants and the outcomes obtained from the results are kept confidential and were utilized only for this research study.

The participants were debriefed after each activity was conducted and told about the risks and benefits involved. They were given the liberty to withdraw at any point if they felt uncomfortable. Most importantly, consent was obtained from the participants, and an assent form from the institution and parents before the commencement of the intervention.

  Results Top

Descriptive analyses of scores on age, pretest, and posttest scores of EI s of males and females are presented in [Table 1]. The range of age for both males and females was 13–14 years.
Table 1: Descriptive statistics of scores on age, pre- and post-test scores of emotional intelligence of males and females

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While examining the subscales of the EI Scale,[13] four dimensions were analyzed: understanding emotions, understanding motivation, empathy, and handling emotions. The mean and standard deviation for these subscales with respect to gender and pretest/posttest scores are provided in [Table 2]. It can be observed that there is an increase in the mean scores in all dimensions from pretest to posttest, and this trend is observed in both males and females. The Cronbach's alpha for the various items on the scale was found to be 0.813, which indicates a high consistency. Skewness and kurtosis were checked, and the distribution was found to be fairly symmetrical.
Table 2: Descriptive statistics of scores on subtests of emotional intelligence (pre- and post-test): Understanding emotions, understanding motivation, empathy, and handling emotions of males and females

Click here to view

To analyze the difference between pretest and posttest scores, a paired sample t-test was computed, as the data were normally distributed [Table 3]. When comparing the overall scores of EI, the t value was found to be − 4.66, which is significant at an alpha level of 0.05. Thus, it can be said that the intervention had a statistically significant effect on the scores of students from pretest to posttest.
Table 3: Paired sample t-test for scores on emotional intelligence

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To check the effects of gender on EI, repeated measures ANOVA was computed. The results presented in [Table 4] suggest that males and females individually differed on scores from pretest to posttest, but when combined, no significant difference was found with respect to scores on EI with respect to gender.
Table 4: Effects of gender on emotional intelligence (Wilk's Lambda)

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To check if the scores on the subscales had a significant difference from pretest to posttest, the nonparametric equivalent of paired sample t-test, Wilcoxin signed-rank test was computed. From [Table 5], it can be observed that subscale, understanding emotions, and handling emotions are found to be statistically significant, while understanding motivation and empathy are not significant at the alpha level of 0.05.
Table 5: Wilcoxin's signed-rank test for the subscales of emotional intelligence

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  Discussion Top

From the results above, key findings emerge, and the proposed hypotheses were analyzed using different statistical techniques to test the hypothesis. The main objective was to see if there is any difference in scores between scores on EI from pretest to posttest. The results indicated in [Table 3] suggest that a statistically significant difference with respect to pretest and posttest scores on the EI scale was found, and thus it can be said that the intervention had an effect on the scores of EI. Therefore, we reject the null hypothesis in light of statistically significant results at P < 0.05. This means that adolescents experienced an increase in confidence in some of their abilities post the intervention, which targeted facets such as handling emotions, regulating emotions, building social-awareness through empathy, and being self-aware. There seems to be a 2-point increase in scores on an average in both males and females. This finding is consistent with previous studies that suggest that in all the stages of development, during adolescence the level of emotional turmoil experienced is the maximum and through an appropriate intervention, these emotions can be taught to handle well.

When comparing the subscales, it is seen that understanding emotions and handling emotions have had significant findings, and this could be attributed to the nature of the intervention, which has incorporated activities relating to the aspect of SEL, and therefore, the students could have found this to be useful in the application. The study did not correlate attachment styles and this may be one of the limitation, which may be used in future studies, since previous review of the literature shows that the attachment with parents are associated with optimistic images of the identity, consisting high levels of self-efficacy and self-esteem.[14] Previous findings suggest that SEL helps boost academic scores of adolescents in future and reduces the risk of anti-social behavior, and this should be a source of assessment in future studies.[8] Another possible explanation of this finding is that providing a SEL intervention for a short duration of time had helped adolescents seek immediate solution and thus rate themselves as being emotionally independent and equipped.

The findings of the study revealed no overall statistically significant gender difference in scores of EI, although scores on EI have been statistically different among males and females separately. Consistent with several other studies, in certain domains such as emotional regulation and handling emotions, females are better while males are better in identifying and labelling their emotions and understanding the social context.[15],[16] Although significant links between EI and well-being for both men and women have been reported, other studies have found EI to be more strongly related to psychological health and adjustment for female students,[17] who may be more likely to experience well-being when their interpersonal relationships are positive and supportive. Furthermore, peers who have the greatest influence on adolescents and those whose support is most important to adolescents are their close friends.[18]

Subscales understanding emotions, understanding motivation, empathy, and handling emotions were analyzed, and a significant difference in scores from pretest to posttest was found only in two dimensions, understanding emotions and handling emotions. When one is able to identify and label their emotions, they are better able to regulate it as emotions are more physical and overt when compared to empathy which is abstract concept. This was consistent among both males and females. This difference can be explained by the intervention module being targeted at emotions in a social context, which could have been overemphasised and inculcated, thus showing the differences in these dimensions. Studies in the area of EI suggest that males and females have differences with different domains and these occur due to differences in socialization and co-operation, expression and awareness of interpersonal relationships.[19]

  Conclusions Top

The findings of this study have established that an SEL intervention had significant effect on the scores of EI, although no differences with respect to gender were identified. Although this gender difference in not seen in scores collectively between males and females, individually, there exists differences in gender with respect to subscales, where males are better able to handle emotions and understand them, while females are better at empathy and understanding motivation. Previous researchers have argued that females have better EI as they are better able to name and regulate their emotions as compared to males. The findings imply that the intervention, a short-term intervention could have been an immediate and direct solution for the adolescents and thus a change in scores has been obtained. It also implies that how we have been taught to express and regulate emotions during childhood impacts how we deal with situations in adult life. The attachments we experience during childhood have a significant impact on our self-image and how we grow up to associate with others. The level of gender differences in EI suggests that males and females might be influenced by the childhood patterns of socialisation and freedom of expression, among the existing stereotypes put forth by society. Again, interacting with diverse nature of people might help in shaping the extent to which both males and females learn to live with others as a means of preventing social disapproval.


There are some limitations, however, first considering the choice of schools and the transitional period of adolescents. This study cannot be generalised to a rural population and hence is limited in its application. Another significant factor that impacted the study was time; the duration was a short-term intervention, but a week of intervention would have resulted in rapid learning but the rates of forgetting would be higher in future. Therefore, spacing the sessions at least 1 week per session could be done in future.

The nature of study was such that it relied only on self-report data from adolescents and other methods such as teacher-rating or parent rating scales were not used, and this could be another limitation, as the results from one questionnaire alone are too deterministic and reductionistic and do not give us an objective viewpoint.

Although the intervention had taken place in the classroom, other confounding factors such as the level of intelligence quotient (IQ), abstractibility, family environment, and sincerity with respect to assignments given could not be monitored, and these could have impacted the results of the study too. In addition, given the prepost nature of the study, it is impossible to determine the true effects of the intervention as there is no control or comparison group. The changes in the outcome are presumed to be the effects of intervention, although theoretically it is plausible that that EI is not steadily measurable at one go and requires extensive follow-up and observation for a long period of time.

Future directions

Despite these limitations, this research has important implications for future research and program development. First, the findings from this study suggest that although a short-term intervention helps in boosting one's EI, several other factors such as close supportive relationships with parents and peers can linked to adolescent self-esteem, which in turn affects expression of emotions. Thus, future researchers need to examine the potential mediating factors that might account for some of the associations between SEL and other components such as family environment, type of socialisation, IQ. Second, this study adds to the sparse literature examining the effects of an intervention of SEL on EI, especially in adolescents. These findings are consistent with theory that prosocial behaviour, a component of EI is linked with adolescent well-being in adolescence. Finally, these findings suggest that programs designed to foster EI in adolescence need to consider fostering empathy and prosocial behaviors in addition to promoting positive relationships with peers and parents.


To the professor, institution and all those who participated in the study and helped to facilitate the research process, the author appreciates their effort and cooperation.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


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