Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology)


School of Psychology - Faculty of Social Sciences


Emotional awareness has been found to be influential for health and wellbeing throughout the lifetime as well as during adolescence. Social functioning, such as social support, friendships, and satisfying relationships with others, is also critical for health and wellbeing during adolescence. Much study has identified the importance of emotional awareness and social functioning, but little has looked at the connection between these two constructs. The aim of this thesis was to clarify the association between emotional awareness and social functioning during adolescence, in particular, their association over time. This thesis is comprised of a systematic review of the current literature on emotional awareness and social functioning over adolescence and two empirical studies.

The systematic review identified ten studies meeting search criteria and represented 6,438 adolescent participants. These studies assessed emotional awareness in relation to six aspects of social functioning: social support, friendship, social adjustment, social problems and social competence. Despite some differences in results across these studies, a relatively reliable small to medium positive correlation between emotional awareness and social functioning during adolescence was found. This review highlighted the many gaps in the research including the small number of studies, mainly crosssectional study designs used, and a lack of longitudinal and intervention research.

Study 1 examined the relationship between emotional awareness (Grades 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) and peer-nominated friendship in 468 adolescents in Grade 12. Results indicate that emotional awareness in early adolescence predicted friendship nominations in later adolescence for females but not for males. Females with greater emotional awareness in Grade 8 received more friendship nominations from female peers and fewer friendship nominations from male peers in Grade 12. This suggests that emotional awareness may be particularly important for friendship for females, with their level of awareness in early adolescence being especially influential.

Study 2 assessed the longitudinal association between emotional awareness and social support over three years during adolescence (n = 903) from Grade 9 to 12, with 314 participants completing all four waves of the study. Results suggest that there is a reciprocal relationship between emotional awareness and social support, such that they mutually influence one another’s development over time.

Together the review and two empirical studies provide evidence for emotional awareness and certain aspects of social functioning being associated during adolescence. Despite the finding that emotional awareness and social support have a reciprocal influence model over time, there is a need for additional longitudinal study and intervention-based study designs to further explore the direction of the relationship between emotional awareness and other aspects of social functioning. A discussion of the clinical and educational implications of this research is included, with particular attention dedicated to school-based curriculums designed to improve socio-emotional wellbeing in adolescents.