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Personality and Individual Differences 127 (2018) 68–73

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Personality and Individual Differences

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The role of emotional intelligence in the maintenance of adolescent dating T

violence perpetration

Liria Fernández-González , Esther Calvete, Izaskun Orue, Ainara Echezarraga
Faculty of Psychology and Education, University of Deusto, Avenida de las Universidades 24, 48007 Bilbao, Spain


Keywords: Emotional intelligence (EI) has been proposed as a protective factor for dating violence perpetration (DVP) based
Dating violence on the findings of a few cross-sectional studies. Given the lack of previous longitudinal research, this study aimed
Emotional intelligence at studying the protective role of EI components against DVP one year later considering gender effects. The
Emotional regulation sample consisted of 542 adolescents (52.2% females) with a mean age of 16.36 years (SD = 0.86) at baseline.
Participants completed measures of EI (attention, clarity, and repair) at T1 and DVP at T1 and T2. Results of the
hierarchical regression analyses showed that the strongest predictor of DVP was previous level of aggression. EI
moderated the maintenance of DVP over time. Specifically, those adolescents with a higher competence of
clarity showed a lower perpetuation of DVP. The other two components of EI (attention and repair) displayed a
gender-specific effect. In particular, a lower perpetuation of DVP was found for girls with higher scores on
emotional attention, and for boys with higher scores on emotional repair. Since adolescents' EI predicts DVP,
preventive interventions should address the improvement of attention, clarity, and repair of their emotions,
considering EI gender specificities.

1. Introduction and use the information provided by feelings to motivate adaptive so-
cial behavior (Salovey, Mayer, Goldman, Turvey, & Palfai, 1995). EI is
Dating violence (DV) is a highly prevalent problem in adolescence conceptualized as a mental ability (the information-processing ap-
worldwide (Wincentak, Connolly, & Card, 2017), which is associated proach related to traditional intelligence), but also as a personality trait
with severe negative consequences (Chiodo et al., 2012; Choi, Weston, (the tendency of a person to manage his/her emotions; Petrides &
& Temple, 2017). It includes any act of physical, emotional, or sexual Furnham, 2000). Trait EI has been found to be positively associated
violence that can take place in person or electronically (Centers for with greater social and psychological well-being in adolescents
Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Risk factor models of adolescent (Mavroveli, Petrides, Rieffe, & Bakker, 2007) and negatively associated
DV include individual emotion-related variables, such as anger man- with internalizing and externalizing problems (e.g., Mavroveli et al.,
agement, arousability and emotionality, impulsivity, and jealousy 2007; Siu, 2009). The systematic review of García-Sancho, Salguero,
(Jouriles, McDonald, Mueller, & Grych, 2012; Riggs & O'Leary, 1989). and Fernández-Berrocal (2014) on EI and aggressive behavior also
Emotional dysregulation and negative affectivity may be the results of provided strong evidence for a negative association between these two
adverse childhood experiences such as exposure to violence in the fa- variables from childhood to adulthood, although none of the studies
mily (Jouriles et al., 2012; Reyes et al., 2015; Shields & Cicchetti, involved a longitudinal design.
1998). All these emotion-related variables are subsumed within models Regarding youth dating relationships, EI has been found to be ne-
of trait emotional intelligence (EI), which tap self-perceptions of skill in gatively associated with physical, psychological, and sexual dating
managing emotion in self/others as well as dispositional elements (e.g., violence perpetration (DVP) in a few cross-sectional studies (Howard,
impulse control). In this way, trait EI may be a useful framework for 2013; Ortiz, Shorey, & Cornelius, 2015; Shorey, Brasfield, Febres, &
understanding how emotion-related facets are linked to DV within risk Stuart, 2011; Stappenbeck, Davis, Cherf, Gulati, & Kajumulo, 2016). For
models. example, the study by Howard (2013) found a negative association
More specifically, EI refers to the competencies of being able to between three factors of the trait EI (emotionality, self-control, and
identify one's own feelings and those of others, regulate these feelings, well-being) and physical and psychological DVP. Aggression may be

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (L. Fernández-González), (E. Calvete), (I. Orue), (A. Echezarraga).
Received 30 September 2017; Received in revised form 13 January 2018; Accepted 27 January 2018
Available online 09 February 2018
0191-8869/ © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
L. Fernández-González et al. Personality and Individual Differences 127 (2018) 68–73

used in an attempt to control negative emotions (Shorey et al., 2011). 21 high schools (9 public and 12 private) in Bizkaia (Spain). Of them,
Overall, previous studies have provided some empirical evidence for 809 adolescents also completed measures one year later (retention
the role of trait EI as a protective factor for the perpetration of DV, rate = 61.41%). Only adolescents who reported having had a dating
although longitudinal research is needed (García-Sancho et al., 2014). relationship in the last year in at least one of the two waves of the study
In addition, research on the developmental pattern of adolescent DV were selected. With this criterion, the final sample of this study was
has identified certain variables (for example, exposure to interparental made up of 542 adolescents (52.2% girls), with a mean age of
violence or delinquent behavior) that increase the maintenance of ag- 16.36 years (SD = 0.86) at baseline. In terms of ethnicity, 95.9% of the
gression (Choi & Temple, 2016; Nocentini, Menesini, & Pastorelli, participants were Spanish, 3.9% were from South America, and 0.2%
2010). Thus, the development of adaptive ways to respond to emotions were from other countries. The socio-economic class of the participants
might also act as a protective factor in preventing the perpetuation of was as follows: 15.4% low, 20.1% medium-low, 29.8% medium, 19.9%
aggressive behaviors. medium-high, and 14.8% high (Spanish Society of Epidemiology,
1.1. Gender differences on EI and its relationship with DVP
2.2. Procedure and measures
Previous studies have found similar scores on EI among both fe-
males and males (Howard, 2013; Shorey et al., 2011), although the The project was approved by the Committee of Ethics in Research of
results vary regarding specific EI facets (Ciarrochi, Chan, & Bajgar, the University of Deusto. First, we contacted the schools to explain the
2001; Shorey et al., 2011). In particular, female adolescents had higher objectives of our study. Passive informed (opt-out) consent from the
scores on perceiving emotions and managing others' emotions, but adolescents and their parents was required. The questionnaires were
gender differences were not found in emotional clarity or the man- anonymous and data were confidential. To match responses over time,
agement of their own emotions. Similar results were obtained among participants used a code that only they knew. After completing the
adults, with a higher attention to emotions in women, but a higher questionnaires, adolescents received written information about centers
emotional regulation in men (Peláez-Fernández, Extremera, & and telephone services for adolescents in Spain in case they needed.
Fernández-Berrocal, 2015). Furthermore, the role of trait EI in the Participants completed the questionnaires in their classrooms (in ap-
perpetration of DV might differ depending on gender. A previous study proximately 50 min) on four occasions, with each wave spaced one year
has shown a significant and negative relationship between ability EI apart. The measures used for the present study were taken from the last
and behavioral problems for males but not for females (Brackett, two waves (years 3 and 4). Specifically, EI was measured at the third
Mayer, & Warner, 2004). In the case of DV, Shorey et al. (2011) found year and DVP was measured at both the third and fourth year (Time 1
greater difficulties in emotion regulation for DV perpetrators compared [T1] and Time 2 [T2] for this study).
to non-perpetrators in both young males and females, although some The Spanish modified version of the Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS-
gender differences emerged depending on the type of aggression and 24; Fernández-Berrocal, Extremera, & Ramos, 2004) was used to assess
specific emotional regulation skills. the adolescents' perceived EI. The TMMS is a self-report questionnaire
designed to assess relatively stable individual differences in people's
1.2. The current study tendency to attend, discriminate and regulate their moods and emo-
tions. The Spanish modified version consists of 24 items grouped in
Although EI is considered a relatively stable individual trait, it de- three subscales: Attention, or the extent to what individuals tend to
velops throughout life and can be improved with training (Zeidner, observe and think about their feelings and moods (8 items; e.g., “I pay a
Shani-Zinovich, Matthews, & Roberts, 2005). A few cross-sectional lot of attention to how I feel”); Clarity, or the understanding of one's
studies indicate that EI can be negatively associated to DVP. Only two emotional states (8 items; e.g., “I am usually very clear about my
studies, however, have explored specific EI facets; in addition, to the feelings”); and Repair, or the individuals' beliefs about ability to reg-
best of our knowledge, no previous longitudinal studies have examined ulate their feelings (8 items; e.g., “Although I am sometimes sad, I have
the predictive role of EI on adolescent DVP and the moderating role of a mostly optimistic outlook”). The response choices for each item were
EI in the maintenance of adolescent aggression toward the dating defined according to a 5-point scale ranging from 0 (it does not describe
partner. Therefore, the first objective of this one-year longitudinal study me well) to 4 (it describes me very well). The TMMS-24 has shown ap-
was to explore whether the different components of EI according to the propriate reliability and significant relations with criterion variables
theoretical model by Salovey et al. (1995; i.e., attention, clarity, and (depression, life satisfaction, and ruminations; Fernández-Berrocal
repair) predict less DVP (global score and physical, psychological and et al., 2004). Cronbach's alphas in this study were .90, .90 and .88 for
sexual subtypes) over time. Consistent with the theory and research the subscales of attention, clarity, and repair, respectively.
reviewed above, we expected that EI would predict lower frequency of The Conflict in Adolescent Dating Relationships Inventory (CADRI,
DVP one year later. The second objective was to examine whether the Wolfe et al., 2001) was used to detect the existence of aggressive acts in
different components of EI have a buffering role in the maintenance of adolescent dating relationships over the last year. The CADRI consists
DVP. We expected that a higher EI act as a protective factor against the of 25 bidirectional items (perpetrator/victim) that assess five different
maintenance of DVP. Finally, considering the above-mentioned gender forms of abusive behavior that may occur between adolescent dating
differences in EI, we included the participants' gender in the analyses. partners: Physical Abuse (e.g., “to slap or pull the hair”), Threatening
However, we did not make any specific hypotheses due to the mixed Behavior (e.g., “to threaten to hurt”), Sexual Abuse (e.g., “to force to
previous findings. have sex when the other didn't want to”), Relational Abuse (e.g., “to try
to turn friends against”), and Verbal/Emotional abuse (e.g., “to insult
2. Method with put-downs”). The response choices for each item were defined
with a 4-point scale ranging from 0 (never) to 3 (often). Participants
2.1. Participants were asked to answer the questionnaire only if they had had a dating
partner in the last year. The Spanish version of the CADRI has shown
The dataset used in this study was extracted from a larger four-year adequate psychometric properties and confirmation of its factor struc-
project that investigates risk factors for aggression during adolescence. ture in a sample of Spanish high school students (Fernández-Fuertes,
The sample was first stratified by school type (private vs. public). The Fuertes, & Pulido, 2006). In this study, Cronbach's alphas for perpe-
schools were then selected randomly by means of a cluster sampling tration were .77 at T1 and .84 at T2, and for victimization they were .83
procedure. The initial sample was composed of 1256 adolescents from at T1 and .87 at T2.

L. Fernández-González et al. Personality and Individual Differences 127 (2018) 68–73

2.3. Data analyses Table 2

Hierarchical regression analysis for the prediction of T2 dating violence perpetration.
Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to test the hy-
ΔR2 β
potheses of the study. Continuous variables were previously trans-
formed to z-scores and gender was coded as −1 (girls) and 1 (boys). In Step 1 0.43⁎⁎⁎
the first step, gender, EI components and DVP at T1 were introduced as T1 DVP 0.58⁎⁎⁎
T1 attention 0.01
predictors of T2 DVP. In the second step, the two-way interaction terms
T1 clarity −0.06
were introduced: DVP × EI components, DVP × Gender, and EI T1 repair −0.06
components × Gender. Finally, in the third step, the three-way inter- Gender 0.01⁎
action terms (DVP × EI components × Gender) were entered. We Step 2 0.06⁎⁎⁎
plotted the 3-way interactions and tested the statistical significance of T1 DVP × attention −0.07a
T1 DVP × clarity −0.14⁎⁎
slope differences using the procedures suggested by Aiken and West
T1 DVP × repair 0.05
(1991). The analyses were conducted for the global DVP score, but we T1 DVP × gender −0.18⁎⁎⁎
also tested whether the results were similar for specific subtypes of T1 Attention × gender 0.05
aggression (physical, psychological, and sexual). The statistical analyses T1 Clarity × gender 0.03
T1 Repair × gender −0.05
were conducted with IBM SPSS 23.0, and missing values were imputed
Step 3 0.01⁎⁎
using the expectation-maximization (EM) imputation algorithm. T1 DVP × attention × gender 0.10⁎⁎
T1 DVP × clarity × gender −0.01
3. Results T1 DVP × repair × gender −0.10⁎⁎
Total R2 0.50⁎⁎⁎
n 542
3.1. Descriptive statistics
Note. DVP = Dating violence perpetration.

Means, standard deviations and correlation coefficients among all p < .05, ⁎⁎p < .01, ⁎⁎⁎p < .001, ap < .10.
the variables of the study are depicted in Table 1. As can be seen, the
strongest correlations were found between the different types of ag- higher for girls (β = 0.79, p < .001) than for boys (β = 0.40,
gression within and across time and for the stability coefficients of DVP. p < .001). With regard to the moderator role of clarity in the main-
There were some small but significant associations between EI and tenance of DVP, the predictive association between T1 DVP and T2 DVP
DVP. Attention was the only facet that showed a positive significant was higher for those adolescents with low clarity (β = 0.76, p < .001)
cross-sectional correlation, while clarity and repair were prospectively than for those with high clarity (β = 0.49, p < .001).
and negatively associated with DVP. With respect to gender differences, The inclusion of the three-way interaction terms also significantly
girls scored higher than boys on attention (M = 2.06 and M = 1.63, increased the determination coefficient, with the interaction for T1
respectively; t(540) = 5.76, p < .001, d = 0.49), T1 physical DVP DVP × attention × gender and the interaction for T1
(M = 0.05 and M = 0.01, respectively; t(348) = 2.23, p < .05, DVP × repair × gender proving to be significant. The post hoc analyses
d = 0.21, and T1 psychological DVP (M = 0.17 and M = 0.13, respec- evidenced that the predictive association between T1 DVP and T2 DVP
tively; t(540) = 2.32, p < .05, d = 0.19). Boys scored higher than girls varied depending on the levels of EI and gender (see Figs. 1 and 2). The
on sexual DVP at T1 (M = 0.11 and M = 0.04, respectively; t interaction between T1 DVP and attention to predict T2 DVP was sta-
(425) = −4.77, p < .001, d = 0.43) and T2 (M = 0.14 and M = 0.06, tistically significant in girls (t = −3.58, p < .001), but not in boys.
respectively; t(457) = −4.53, p < .001, d = 0.40). No significant dif- More specifically, the association between T1 DVP and T2 DVP was
ferences were found for the rest of the variables. stronger in girls with low attention (β = 0.95, p < .001) than it was in
girls with high attention to emotions (β = 0.69, p < .001). In contrast,
3.2. Prediction of DVP based on EI and gender in the case of repair, the interaction between T1 DVP and repair to
predict T2 DVP was significant in boys (t = −2.12, p < .05). Con-
Results for the hierarchical regression analysis for the prediction of cretely, the association between T1 DVP and T2 DVP was higher in boys
DVP are depicted in Table 2. As can be seen, T1 DVP was a significant who were low in repair (β = 0.50, p < .001) than it was in boys high
predictor of DVP one year later. No direct predictive associations of EI in repair (β = 0.26, p < .01). The interaction between T1 DVP and
facets with T2 DVP were found. The determination coefficient sig- repair to predict T2 DVP was not significant in girls.
nificantly increased with the inclusion of the two-way interaction The analysis considering the type of aggression revealed similar
terms. Specifically, T1 DVP × Gender and T1 DVP × clarity were sig- results for physical and psychological DVP to those obtained for the
nificant. The predictive association between T1 DVP and T2 DVP was total DVP score. Moreover, a significant predictive association between

Table 1
Descriptive statistics for the study variables.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 M SD MV S K

1. T1 attention 1.85 0.90 0 0.11 −0.70

2. T1 clarity 0.32⁎⁎⁎ 2.04 0.88 0 −0.06 −0.50
3. T1 repair 0.27⁎⁎⁎ 0.50 ⁎⁎⁎
2.47 0.87 0 −0.38 −0.37
4. T1 DVP-T 0.11⁎⁎ −0.05 −0.05 0.12 0.16 80 2.89 14.04
5.T1 DVP-Ph −0.02 −0.06 −0.01 0.56⁎⁎⁎ 0.03 0.18 81 10.53 145.34
6. T1 DVP-Psy 0.14⁎⁎ −0.02 −0.06 0.97⁎⁎⁎ 0.44⁎⁎⁎ 0.15 0.20 80 2.38 8.05
7. T1 DVP-S 0.01 −0.04 −0.01 0.38⁎⁎⁎ 0.08 0.20⁎⁎⁎ 0.08 0.18 80 3.39 14.03
8. T2 DVP-T 0.02 −0.09⁎ −0.11⁎ 0.65⁎⁎⁎ 0.55⁎⁎⁎ 0.60⁎⁎⁎ 0.16⁎⁎⁎ 0.15 0.20 75 3.65 21.77
9. T2 DVP-Ph −0.04 −0.07 −0.09⁎ 0.44⁎⁎⁎ 0.65⁎⁎⁎ 0.38⁎⁎⁎ 0.07 0.70⁎⁎⁎ 0.04 0.20 75 6.98 54.98
10. T2 DVP-Psy 0.03 −0.09⁎ −0.10⁎ 0.65⁎⁎⁎ 0.53⁎⁎⁎ 0.62⁎⁎⁎ 0.11⁎ 0.97⁎⁎⁎ 0.59⁎⁎⁎ 0.18 0.24 75 3.41 19.15
11. T2 DVP-S −0.01 −0.07 −0.06 0.20⁎⁎⁎ 0.09⁎ 0.13⁎⁎ 0.28⁎⁎⁎ 0.48⁎⁎⁎ 0.32⁎⁎⁎ 0.30⁎⁎⁎ 0.10 0.22 75 3.05 11.06

Note. DVP = Dating violence perpetration; T = Total; Ph = Physical; Psy = Psychological; S=Sexual; MV = missing values (n); S = skewness; K = kurtosis.

p < .05, ⁎⁎p < .01, ⁎⁎⁎p < .001.

L. Fernández-González et al. Personality and Individual Differences 127 (2018) 68–73

Fig. 1. Three-way interaction between T1 dating violence perpetration, attention and gender to predict T2 dating violence perpetration.

repair and T2 physical DVP was found. With regard to sexual DVP, impulsivity, self-regulation, conflict resolution skills; Fernández-
aggression at T2 was predicted by previous aggression at T1 and gender González, O'Leary, & Muñoz-Rivas, 2014). Our findings suggest that
(being a boy was associated with a higher risk of perpetrate sexual lesser EI competencies may be one of the factors that prevents the
violence). In the same way that for the other types of aggression, an normative decrease of DV. Those adolescents with limited EI compe-
interaction between T1 DVP and clarity was found, but there were not tencies could have lesser resources to solve relationship conflicts, so
significant three-way interaction terms. that they would continue to resort to aggression instead of employing
more adaptive strategies.
Interestingly, the EI component of emotional clarity influenced both
4. Discussion
girls and boys, meaning that the ability of identifying and under-
standing one's emotional states favors the desistance of behaving ag-
This one-year longitudinal study explored the role of EI as a pre-
gressively toward the partner for both genders. Nevertheless, the role of
dictor of adolescent DVP and its moderating role in the maintenance of
attention and repair varied as a function gender. In particular, perpe-
adolescent aggression toward the dating partner. Specifically, the first
tuation of DVP was higher for girls with a lower tendency to attend to
objective was to explore whether three different components of EI (i.e.,
their moods and emotions. These findings suggest that attention to
attention, clarity, and repair) predicted less DVP over time. The results
emotions is more beneficial for girls, who also scored significantly
of the bivariate analysis showed a small but significant negative long-
higher than boys on this EI component, which is consistent with the
itudinal association between clarity and repair and perpetration of DV,
results of previous research (Ciarrochi et al., 2001; Peláez-Fernández
which is consistent with the results of previous cross-sectional studies
et al., 2015; Shorey et al., 2011). This protective role of attention seems
(e.g., Howard, 2013; Shorey et al., 2011; Stappenbeck et al., 2016).
to be contradictory with the positive cross-sectional correlation found
However, with the exception of repair in the case of physical aggres-
between attention and DVP, which was also reported by Peláez-
sion, none of the EI components directly predicted changes in DVP over
Fernández et al. (2015) in a sample of adult women. These authors
time when controlling for T1 DVP in the multivariate analysis. These
discussed that the women tendency to attend emotions, especially in
results indicate that previous perpetration is a better predictor of sub-
the absence of clarity and repair, maximize the emotional experience
sequent aggression, although consistently with the second hypothesis of
and favor rumination which in turn may increase aggressiveness.
this study, EI interacted with previous levels of aggression. Those
However, our findings suggest that, in adolescent girls, a higher ten-
adolescents with low rates of T1 DVP did not differ in T2 DVP de-
dency to attend emotions may play a protective role, probably when
pending on their levels of EI, but for those adolescents with high rates of
accompanied by the ability to understand and regulate one's own
T1 DVP a lower EI predicted significantly higher scores on T2 DVP. In
emotions, none of which showed significant gender differences.
other words, EI reduced the maintenance of DVP over time, indicating
The repair EI component showed a moderator role for boys.
that for adolescents with a lower EI, DVP can be perpetuated. It has
Specifically, perpetuation of DVP was higher for boys with a lower
been suggested that the normative trajectory of adolescent DV (with a
tendency to regulate their emotions. Mean scores of repair have been
peak in middle adolescence and subsequent desistance) may be related
showed to be significantly higher in men than women in adult samples
to specific characteristics of this developmental stage and normative
(Peláez-Fernández et al., 2015), but previous studies with adolescent
changes in key dimensions of personality during adolescence (e.g.,

Fig. 2. Three-way interaction between T1 dating violence perpetration, repair and gender to predict T2 dating violence perpetration.

L. Fernández-González et al. Personality and Individual Differences 127 (2018) 68–73

samples have not found gender differences in the management of one's relation to everyday behaviour. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 1387–1402.
own emotions (Ciarrochi et al., 2001; Shorey et al., 2011). Our findings
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2016) (2016). Understanding teen
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