The impact of emotional intelligence on substance use and delinquency in a college sample: a comparison of emotional intelligence traits versus abilities
Substance abuse and delinquent behavior are prevalent behaviors on college campuses that negatively affect many students each year. Researchers have investigated causes and correlates of these behaviors, including personality, contextual variables, and cognitive factors. The current study investigated the impact of two prominent models of emotional intelligence (ability model and trait models) on substance abuse and reactive/immature delinquency in a college population. Emotional intelligence is generally defined as the capacity to understand and manage emotions. Trait emotional intelligence is described as self-perceptions, abilities, competencies, and personality traits. Ability emotional intelligence is described as a combination of emotional-reasoning skills and abilities. 193 students from the University of Alabama participated in the current study. Results indicated that both trait and ability emotional intelligence (as measured by the Emotional Quotient-Inventory (EQ-i) and Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), respectively), were significantly correlated with substance abuse and reactive/immature delinquency (as measured by the Measure of Delinquency-Revised (MOD-R)). In multiple regression models, the EQ-i and the MSCEIT remained significant predictors of substance abuse, but not of reactive/immature delinquency, which was significantly predicted by the personality traits of Openness and Agreeableness. Gender was also a significant predictor of substance abuse but not of reactive/immature delinquency. These results reflect the distinct, yet related, nature of ability and trait emotional intelligence constructs and the usefulness of both models in predicting substance abuse. Future directions include further exploration of gender differences and the inclusion of contextual factors in the predictive models. The current study also addressed the creation and predictive ability of the Emotional Intelligence Behavior Scale (EIBS). The EIBS was significantly correlated with trait, but not ability, emotional intelligence and was a significant predictor of reactive/immature delinquency. Future directions include further development of this scale and exploration of its predictive ability.