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Negative repetitive thoughts clarify the link between trait emotional intelligence and emotional distress

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Emotional intelligence (EI) is reported to be inversely associated with emotional distress, although the potential role of negative repetitive thoughts in this relationship has not yet been explored. The current investigation examined the links between four facets of trait EI and emotional distress (i.e., symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder [GAD], depression, and social anxiety), and the mediating roles of worry, rumination, and post-event processing (PEP) in a sample of university students (N = 126). The EI facets of recognizing and regulating emotions in the self correlated negatively with emotional distress and negative repetitive thoughts. Regulation of emotions in others correlated only with levels of social anxiety. The role of negative repetitive thoughts was tested using three multiple mediator models. Worry independently mediated the link between EI and symptoms of GAD. Worry, rumination, and PEP independently mediated the link between EI and depression. Worry and rumination independently mediated the link between EI and social anxiety. Results suggest lower trait EI may lead to greater negative repetitive thoughts, which may increase the experience of emotional distress.

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We would like to thank Stephanie Cottrell, Alyssa Mervin, Kimberly Ongaro, Amy Killen, Sarah Kaukinen, Dylan Antoniazzi, and Matthew Nordlund for their assistance with data collection. During the preparation of this manuscript, Kaytlin Constantin was funded by the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program and Carley J. Pope was funded by Mental Health Research Canada.

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Correspondence to Dwight Mazmanian.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author Disclosure

Robert Tett is an author of the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment scale, which is published commercially by Sigma Assessment Systems Inc. Dr. Tett receives a modest royalty for MEIA sales. Portions of the results were presented at the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences Conference, London, ON, July 2015.

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Constantin, K., Penney, A.M., Pope, C.J. et al. Negative repetitive thoughts clarify the link between trait emotional intelligence and emotional distress. Curr Psychol 40, 5526–5535 (2021).

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