Relations between social and emotional competence and mental health: a construct validation study
Researchers working fairly independently of each other have created numerous measures of social and emotional competence (SEC). These measures tend to correlate (sometimes highly) with each other and with measures of stressful events, suggesting potential redundancy. We evaluated which, if any, SEC variables predicted unique variance in social and mental health after controlling for other SEC variables in the study and the impact of stressful events. Three-hundred and thirty-one university students participated in an anonymous, cross-sectional study. We measured stressful events, and a wide variety of SECs, including: social problem solving skill (effective problem orientation, automatic processing, and problem solving), alexithymia (difficulty identifying and describing emotions; minimising emotions), effective emotional control (low rumination, high impulse control, high aggression control, low defensive inhibiting of emotions), and level of emotional awareness. We also assessed a variety of aspects of social and mental health (e.g. depression, anxiety, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, life satisfaction, social support). Covariance analyses revealed that all SEC measures except minimising emotions had significant incremental value over the other measures and over stressful events in predicting social and mental health. The optimal set of predictors differed depending upon the type of health predicted. These findings have important implications for the design of social and emotional intervention programs.