Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology)


Department of Psychology


Recently there has been interest in the relationship between Emotional Competence and mental health. The study investigated a stress-emotion skill (the ability to perceive, understand, and manage emotions) model of psychological and social adaptation, under the rubric of Emotional Intelligence. Thus the research focused on protective in contrast to risk factors. The participants were 294 Australian male 9th to 11th grade highschool students, who participated in an anonymous, cross-sectional study. Measured were hassles-based stressful events and a variety of emotional competencies, including difficulty identifying feelings, and difficulty describing feelings to others (alexithymia), managing one's own emotions, managing other peoples emotions, the perception of emotions in other people, and understanding the meaning of emotions. Also assessed were a variety of aspects of state mental health (depression, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation), stable mental health (positive affectivity and negative affectivity), and social health (satisfaction with social support and amount of social support). Multiple regression meeting the assumptions of multivariate normality demonstrated that Alexithymia in association with negative affectivity, low positive affectivity, under conditions of hassles-based stress, and dissatisfying social support accounted for 69% of variation in level of depression among the students. Stepwise regression analyses revealed that emotional competencies had significant incremental value over the other competencies and over stressful events in predicting social and mental health. The optimal set of competencies differed depending upon the aspect of health predicted. Series of regression analyses determined that the relationships between managing others emotions and depression, and between managing others emotions and suicidal ideation were each completely mediated by social support. General Linear Modelling identified that managing others emotions moderated the impact of stress on psychological adaptation. Regression analyses revealed that stress was associated with less suicidal ideation among adolescents able to effectively manage others emotions compared to their less emotionally competent peers. Sequential regression analyses further evaluated construct, and measurement, validity and distinctiveness. Emotional competencies had significant incremental value over and above other competencies, measures of stressful events, positive affectivity, negative affectivity, and hopelessness, in the prediction of social and mental health. The results of sequential regressions suggest that Emotional Competence is an important construct in understanding the relationship between stress and social and mental health, although Emotional Competence may not be distinct from major personality dimensions and may not exist as a type of "intelligence". These findings have important implications for the design of social-emotional intervention programs aimed at primary prevention of mental illness.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.