Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Emotional intelligence; Risk-taking (Psychology) in adolescence; Risk perception; Emotions in adolescence;


Emotional intelligence is a concept developed by Salovey and Mayer in 1990. Since the first published work on emotional intelligence, others have modified the original idea by adding personality-like traits to the model of emotional intelligence. Consequently, there is a split in the conceptualization of emotional intelligence and the measurement of emotional intelligence; ability model assessment and mixed or trait model self-report assessment. The ability model of emotional intelligence has stood up to tests of discriminant validity over personality traits, unlike the mixed model of emotional intelligence. It is also distinguishable from cognitive intelligence, yet correlates moderately and therefore is considered related to or a component of intelligence. Little research has used the ability model of emotional intelligence, but there is a growing body of evidence that emotional intelligence is important in the prediction of adolescent risk behavior (Mayer, Perkins, Caruso, & Salovey, 2001; Trinidad & Johnson, 2002).

Adolescent risk behavior is a popular area of interest because the leading cause of death of persons between the ages of 15 and 19 years is unintentional injuries resulting from specific behaviors ( e.g., drinking and driving, unprotected sexual intercourse, speeding).

The current study adds to the growing body of research that uses ability model emotional intelligence tests through a comparison of emotional intelligence scores with the Five Factor Model personality traits, self-reported risk behavior and risk perception of adolescents and young adults. Several risk behaviors were targeted, and these behaviors are of varying types: Thrill-seeking risk ( e.g., roller blading, sky diving), Rebellious risk (e.g., smoking, staying out late), Reckless risk (e.g., speeding, drinking and driving) and Anti-social risk (e.g., cheating, teasing others).

The aim of this study was to answer three important questions. First, is emotional intelligence a protective factor for risk behaviors in adolescence and early adulthood? Second, does emotional intelligence have incremental validity over the NEO-FFI in predicting risk behavior in adolescents and young adults? Finally, do older participants have higher overall emotional intelligence scores then younger participants?

Participants were 171 males and females between the ages of 15 and 24 recruited from area high schools, the UNI student population, and the local community. Each participant took the MSCEIT or MSCEIT-YV, the ARQ and the NEO-FFI. The findings of the present study suggest that emotional intelligence is related to risk behavior in high school students. However, in college students, the present results indicate that emotional intelligence is related to risk perception, but not to risk behavior. As expected, thrillseeking behavior was not related to emotional intelligence. Our data show that emotional intelligence provides incremental validity over personality factors in the prediction of risk behavior in high school students and provides incremental validity over personality in the prediction of risk beliefs in college students. We found a small indication of a developmental trend in the college students and a strong trend in the opposite direction from what was expected in the high school participants, which suggests that emotional intelligence may not increase with age.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology


Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

First Advisor

John E. Williams, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (v, 78 pages)



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