Trait Emotional Intelligence and Young Adolescents’ Positive and Negative Affect: The Mediating Roles of Personal Resilience, Social Support, and Prosocial Behavior

  • Jia-Lin ZhaoEmail author
  • Dan Cai
  • Cai-Yun Yang
  • John Shields
  • Zhe-Ning Xu
  • Chun-Ying Wang
Original Paper



While trait emotional intelligence (EI) has been found to be related to young adolescents’ affect, the underlying mechanisms need to be further explored. Previous findings are also limited by common method problems arising from the use of cross-sectional design involving single-wave data capture.


The study aims to clarify the relation between trait EI and young adolescents’ positive and negative affect by further exploring the mediating roles of personal resilience, social support, and prosocial behavior.


We conducted a three-wave survey among 714 Chinese junior high school students (mean age of 11.11 years) with temporal separations of the research measures to reduce common method variance. Trait EI was measured at the beginning of Grade 6; personal resilience, social support, and prosocial behavior were measured at the end of Grade 6; positive and negative affect were measured at the end of Grade 7.


Trait EI at the beginning of Grade 6 was positively related to positive affect and negatively related to negative affect by the end of Grade 7. The influence of trait EI on positive affect was fully mediated by personal resilience, social support, and prosocial behavior at the end of Grade 6. Its influence on negative affect was also fully mediated by social support.


The findings clarify the mechanisms underlying the trait EI effect and highlight the importance of future youth programs targeting mediation mechanisms. In particular, we suggest the worth of utilizing trait EI to better facilitate personal and social resources when facing difficulties, and to help others in appropriate and effective ways.


Trait emotional intelligence Positive and negative affect Young adolescents Personal resilience Social support Prosocial behavior 



The research was supported in part by grants from the Life Education and Career Development Action Research, Training & Practice Pilot Project funded by Tin Ka Ping Foundation and The Youth Foundation, and the Humanities and Social Science Grant from the Ministry of Education, P. R. China (15YJCZH233). Some data in the manuscript was used in a paper by Xu, Zhao, and Cai (2019), which explored the effect of trait EI on anxiety and depression among adolescents.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the psychological profession and the relevant code of conduct (American Psychological Association 1992) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The research was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Shanghai Normal University.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all adolescent participants included in the study. The study also applied a passive informed consent procedure for their parents, which is a common practice in China.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, School of Philosophy, Law and Political ScienceShanghai Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.The University of Sydney Business SchoolThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Institute of SociologyShanghai Academy of Social SciencesShanghaiChina
  4. 4.Counseling and Psychological Services of ECNUEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  5. 5.Department of Psychology, College of EducationShanghai Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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