Teens may lose their emotional intelligence as they get older due to academic pressure, social media and excessive screen time, research carried out by two Cork students suggests.
Research carried out by first-year students, Lucy Teape and Lisa Nield, for this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition indicates that teens' emotional intelligence might decrease during their first three years of secondary school.
Carrying out quantitative and qualitative research on their fellow students at St Brogan’s College in Bandon, the two teens set out to investigate the importance of emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient or EQ, in young adolescents.
While intelligence quotient (IQ) measures abilities such as spatial processing, reasoning and memory, EQ measures self-awareness and impulse control, persistent zeal, motivating empathy and social awareness.
These are qualities that "mark people who excel in life", according to Lucy and Lisa. They also set out to see if they could find a connection between a teen's EQ and IQ.
They found that emotional intelligence in the teens included in their study actually decreased between the ages of 13 and 16 as they progressed through the Junior Cycle.
"We read a lot of other research before we conducted our own. At this age, emotional intelligence would be expected to rapidly increase, but we found it was in decline," said Lucy.
"When we asked teachers, guidance counsellors and other educational experts why this might be the case, they blamed the overemphasis on academic success, social media, and teenagers having too much screen time," Lisa added.
There was also another surprising finding during the course of their study. “Our research shows that emotional intelligence is not higher in girls," Lucy said.
Many educationalists believe girls are ahead of boys when it comes to emotional intelligence but this is not the case. Girls need just as much support with EQ as their male counterparts.
The girls believe that all the stakeholders in secondary school education, including schools, teachers, parents and the Department of Education, should take note of their research to ensure that happy young adults emerge from second-level schools.
Their teacher, Laura O’Regan, who guided and coached the girls with their project, said she is “tremendously proud” of all their work.
Lucy and Lisa will be among the students presenting their findings at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) in the RDS, which begins on Wednesday.
Almost 600 finalists from 244 schools across the country will showcase their projects and meet with the judges from January 8-11.
Many projects this year delve into current social issues such as mental health, climate change, the rights of transgender people, and the effects of social media on young people.