Understanding Emotions as a Unique Predictor of Social Self-Realization in Part-Time and Full-Time Students

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Abstract

Self-realization, as a psychological phenomenon that combines well-pronounced motivational and cognitive-evaluative components, largely determines adaptive resources of a person. This article analyzes the relationships among three types of self-realization, basic personal traits, professional experience and emotional intelligence of young adults on a sample of 125 students (girls and boys) of the Southern Federal University. A part of the sample consisted of part-time students who combined work and professional training (n=51), the rest were full-time students in their respective fields of study (n=74). The study tested three research hypotheses, namely that: (1) The respondents would report relatively low level of social self-realization, in comparison with professional and personal self-realization; (2) Significant differences would be observed in indicators of social self-realization, but not in emotional intelligence, between the sub-samples of part-time and full-time students; (3) Professional experience, basic personal characteristics and individual indicators of emotional intelligence would contribute to the respondents' subjective assessment of their social self-realization. Results of ANOVA, correlational and regression analysis of data collected using psychodiagnostic techniques by Kudinov (self-realization profiles), Lyusin (EmIn), and Sschebetenko (Big Five-2), by and large, confirmed all three study hypotheses, in particular and most importantly – about the differences between the two categories of respondents in the level of their social self-realization and in various combinations of its predictors, specifically, about the unique role of the ‘understanding emotions’ factor. The article also discusses the importance of self-realization for successful social adaptation of young people and describes various psycho-correctional and psychological-pedagogical methods, including specialized training of emotional intelligence, designed to compensate for low social self-realization.

General Information

Keywords: emotional intelligence, understanding emotions, professional selfrealization, personal self-realization, social self-realization, personality traits, social activities, young adults, part-time and full-time student, psychological training

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/pse.2023280201

Received: 02.05.2022

Accepted:

For citation: Obukhova Y.V., Borokhovski E.F. Understanding Emotions as a Unique Predictor of Social Self-Realization in Part-Time and Full-Time Students. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2023. Vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 5–17. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2023280201.

Full text

Introduction

“Do you strive to fully realize your knowl­edge, talents and abilities in socially signifi­cant events / professional activities / relation­ships with others?” A person who answers positively to this and similar questions con­firms, first of all, to him/herself the sense of satisfaction with own actions their results in various life circumstances — such person is content/gratified with how successful the realization of creative, professional, com­municative, intellectual, motivational etc.po­tentials is.In other words, a person positively evaluates what professional psychologists describe by the term “self-realization” or “self-efficacy” [13].The former term characterizes a person’s self-assessment of how fully her/ his personal potential is realized, while the second literally describes a person’s percep­tion of own ability to carry out certain activities at the expected/given level of success and is very often considered in the context of educa­tional activities [19].Both psychological phe­nomena combine pronounced motivational (“what I aspire to”) and cognitive-evaluative (“how successfully I manage realization of these aspirations”) components.

Obviously, self-realization affects vari­ous spheres of human life.S.I.Kudinov identifies three basic areas of self-realiza­tion — personal, professional and social [4].In the structure of self-realization of an individual person, a certain area may prevail, while others recede into the back­ground.This is a natural process that re­flects the vital interests and priorities of the individual.

However, a disproportionately low level of self-realization in one area potentially threatens the overall psychological adap­tation — a serious dissatisfaction with the degree of fulfilling one’s potential even in limited certain aspects of life is frustrating, gradually spreading to other areas, reduc­ing motivation for them, causing a feeling of tension and discomfort — and, as such, need adequate psychological correction.

Study Problem and Rationale

The Fundamentals of the Youth Policy of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2025, name as the main goal educating “patriotic youth with independent thinking and a creative worldview, with professional knowledge, capable of demonstrating high cultural standards, responsibility and the ability to make independent decisions” [10], i.e., creating conditions for meaningful self-realization.According to the document, youth policy should be focused on the com­prehensive promotion of self-realization of young people through their involvement in the volunteer movement, various social and educational projects, grant competi­tions, professional start-ups, etc.However, despite the numerous opportunities for self-realization, the social activity of young people remains rather low, as evident from various empirical studies [1; 7].

Among the three previously named types, social self-realization is especially in­teresting in its relation to other psychological characteristics.It has been established that individuals with a high level of social self-realization are characterized by a high level of social (dynamic in interpersonal commu­nication) and emotional (high level of empa­thy and tolerance) types of intelligence, as well as a more harmonious self-concept that combines a high level of self-control, the desire for self-fulfillment, a high rate of self-actualization and meaningfulness of life.It has also shown that volunteering in the per­ception of young people is no longer limited to being driven by altruistic motives [1], but also includes compensatory and pragmatic motives: benefits, personal growth and ex­pansion of social contacts [1; 8; 11].

Empirical evidence also points to emo­tional intelligence as a significant predictor of successful self-realization.People with a high General Factor of Personality, which is also a recognized indicator of overall social performance, typically show higher results on emotional intelligence scales [17].

A meta-analysis of the connection of emotional intelligence to learning shows that students with a higher level of the former emotional are better able to cope with negative emotions associated with academic performance (anxiety, boredom, frustration) — supposedly, due to the abil­ity to better control own emotions and in­fluence the emotional reactions of others.They also demonstrate a high potential for successful interaction with others and more successfully build relationships with teach­ers, peers and the family [15].Developed emotional intelligence reduces indecision when building individual professional tra­jectories [18], enhances the experience of positive emotions and suppresses / com­pensates for negative ones, thus, contrib­uting to the development of more flexible mental models (characterized by high cre­ative potential), and subsequently to more effective professional self-realization [23].

Ability to develop behavioral responses and thought processes (including mani­festations of emotional intelligence) that are instrumental in achieving well-being, also underlies higher levels of personality development — quite in accordance with A.Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.Indeed, at a higher level of self-realization, a per­son tends to experience less anxiety, more effectively solve emerging problems and more fully enjoy the opportunities that open up.All this puts emotional intelligence with­in the array of factors that contribute to suc­cessful self-realization of the individual [6].

Personal characteristics are also fac­tors capable of influencing self-efficacy [21].For example, consciousness, extra­version and neuroticism often significantly correlate (the latter — negatively) with self-efficacy [16; 20].

To summarize, it is worth noting we that the attention of research on self-re­alization is largely drawn to the problems of its age-driven dynamics and differences in the saliency of its types — personal, social and professional.Of some special interest are particularly low indicators of social self-realization in young adults — when there is even the need for employing methods of psychological compensation / correction [3; 12].

Considering the above data on the high compensatory potential of emotional intel­ligence, including our own earlier study [7] and the importance of taking into account personal characteristics when analyzing the adaptive capabilities of young adults, the following questions and the related re­search hypotheses were formulated:

  1. What level of social self-realization (including in comparison with its other types) and indicators of emotional intelli­gence do characterize the sample of young adult participating in the study? According­ly, the H1 hypothesis suggests that respon­dents’ self-assessment of the level of social self-realization is lower than personal and professional ones, with a significant varia­tion in emotional intelligence indicators.
  2. Do the level of social self-realization and indicators of emotional intelligence dif­fer between respondents in the groups of working (combining studies at a university with work and, accordingly, having longer professional experiences) and studying (full-time students who are not included in any labor activities) participants? Hypoth­esis H2 suggests significant differences in the level of expression of self-realization, but not in the indicators of emotional intel­ligence, as potential predictors of self-real­ization, between the groups of working and studying participants.
  3. What factors influence the degree of manifestation of social self-realization in the sample as a whole and in working and studying groups? Accordingly, the H3 hypothesis tests the relationship of profes­sional experience, personal characteristics (especially, extraversion), and indicators of emotional intelligence, first of all, the abil­ity to understand emotions (as a potentially important compensatory / adaptive factor) with the subjective perception by young adults of their social self-realization.

Study Sample and Instruments Used

The study sample consists of 125 stu­dents of the Southern Federal University (107 girls and 18 boys) aged 18-38 years (mean age 22.15, SD=4.70).At the time of the study, 74 were full-time students, while the remaining 51 — combined study with work in their respective professional fields.Accordingly, we distinguished between the groups of studying and working par­ticipants.The groups did not differ in terms of gender composition: 64 and 41 women and 10 and 10 men, respectively (the chi-square value of 0.83 was not statistically significant, p = .36).The indicator of pro­fessional experience included the number of full years of both work and training in the respective professional speciality.

To assess the three types of self-realiza­tion of the respondents, the study used the Multidimensional Self-Realization Ques­tionnaire by S.I.Kudinov [4].This instru­ment contains 101 questions with 6 options for answers: from “no” to “definitely yes”).The values of internal consistency (Cron­bach’s alpha) for the test scales range from 0.72 to 0.78, with the test-retest reliability coefficient of 0.76 (p < .01).

Various components of emotional intel­ligence were assessed with the EmIn ques­tionnaire by D.V.Lyusin [5].The test contains 46 statements evaluated on a 4-point Likert-wise scale).Cronbach’s alpha values for the test subscales range from 0.75 to 0.79.

“Big Five Inventory-2” (in the Russian ad­aptation of S.A.Shchebetenko [9]: 61 ques­tions) assessed respondents’ major personal factors (Big Five).The test has Cronbach’s alpha of 0.84 — for raw scores and 0.85 — for centered scores, thus, indicating high internal consistency.The checklist of basic socio-demographic data included questions regarding gender, age, field of study and professional specialization, as well as of structural subdivision within the university, and the length of study / work.

Participation in the study was voluntary and no remuneration was paid to partici­pants.Participants filled out the response forms of all measures individually.The respondents’ anonymity was ensured.The collected data were processed in the SPSS 26.0 package by means of the fol­lowing statistical procedures.An unpaired Student’s t-test was used to compare the groups of respondents on major variables, Pearson’s linear correlation coefficient was calculated to assess the direction and de­gree of relationships among variables, and multiple regression analysis was used to assess the relative contribution of various predictors to the distribution of the criterion variable of social self-realization.

Results and Discussion

Descriptive statistics for all variables and cross-correlations among them for the sample as a whole are summarized in Table 1.

First, we were interested in whether there are differences in the major variables between the working and studying groups, regardless of the age factor.There is a statistically significant relationship between age and professional experience (r = 0.459, p < .01), while professional experience (nat­urally higher for the working participants), but not age, is significantly positively cor­related with several major variables, except for personality traits (their relatively stable nature throughout their life cycle is quite well documented).It should be noted that as the experience of professional activity is gradually acquired with time, the indicators of all types of self-realization decrease.

3.What factors influence the degree of manifestation of social self-realization in the sample as a whole and in working and studying groups? Accordingly, the H3 hypothesis tests the relationship of profes­sional experience, personal characteristics (especially, extraversion), and indicators of emotional intelligence, first of all, the abil­ity to understand emotions (as a potentially important compensatory / adaptive factor) with the subjective perception by young adults of their social self-realization.

Study Sample and Instruments Used

The study sample consists of 125 stu­dents of the Southern Federal University (107 girls and 18 boys) aged 18-38 years (mean age 22.15, SD=4.70).At the time of the study, 74 were full-time students, while the remaining 51 — combined study with work in their respective professional fields.Accordingly, we distinguished between the groups of studying and working par­ticipants.The groups did not differ in terms of gender composition: 64 and 41 women and 10 and 10 men, respectively (the chi-square value of 0.83 was not statistically significant, p = .36).The indicator of pro­fessional experience included the number of full years of both work and training in the respective professional speciality.

To assess the three types of self-realiza­tion of the respondents, the study used the Multidimensional Self-Realization Ques­tionnaire by S.I.Kudinov [4].This instru­ment contains 101 questions with 6 options for answers: from “no” to “definitely yes”).The values of internal consistency (Cron­bach’s alpha) for the test scales range from 0.72 to 0.78, with the test-retest reliability coefficient of 0.76 (p < .01).

Various components of emotional intel­ligence were assessed with the EmIn ques­tionnaire by D.V.Lyusin [5].The test contains 46 statements evaluated on a 4-point Likert-wise scale).Cronbach’s alpha values for the test subscales range from 0.75 to 0.79.

“Big Five Inventory-2” (in the Russian ad­aptation of S.A.Shchebetenko [9]: 61 ques­tions) assessed respondents’ major personal factors (Big Five).The test has Cronbach’s alpha of 0.84 — for raw scores and 0.85 — for centered scores, thus, indicating high internal consistency.The checklist of basic socio-demographic data included questions regarding gender, age, field of study and professional specialization, as well as of structural subdivision within the university, and the length of study / work.

Participation in the study was voluntary and no remuneration was paid to partici­pants.Participants filled out the response forms of all measures individually.The respondents’ anonymity was ensured.The collected data were processed in the SPSS 26.0 package by means of the fol­lowing statistical procedures.An unpaired Student’s t-test was used to compare the groups of respondents on major variables, Pearson’s linear correlation coefficient was calculated to assess the direction and de­gree of relationships among variables, and multiple regression analysis was used to assess the relative contribution of various predictors to the distribution of the criterion variable of social self-realization.

Results and Discussion

Descriptive statistics for all variables and cross-correlations among them for the sample as a whole are summarized in Table 1.

First, we were interested in whether there are differences in the major variables between the working and studying groups, regardless of the age factor.There is a statistically significant relationship between age and professional experience (r = 0.459, p < .01), while professional experience (nat­urally higher for the working participants), but not age, is significantly positively cor­related with several major variables, except for personality traits (their relatively stable nature throughout their life cycle is quite well documented).It should be noted that as the experience of professional activity is gradually acquired with time, the indicators of all types of self-realization decrease.

For the entire sample, the indicator of social self-realization (M = 57.37) is signifi­cantly lower than the indicators of personal (M = 79.42) and professional (M = 62.33) self-realization.Pairwise comparisons of social self-realization with the other two types are statistically significant (p < .001 and p = .013, respectively).The same pattern is preserved when the sample is divided into the working (53.20; 74.08; 57.67) and studying (60.24; 83.11; 65.54) groups of respondents.The numbers in pa­rentheses reflect the average values of the subjective assessment of social, personal and professional self-realization (in this se­quence) for these subgroups, respectively.Thus, H1 about the relatively low degree of social self-realization in this age group is supported.

These results are consistent with the pattern previously observed in many em­pirical studies.For example, when studying the priority areas of youth social activity, it was revealed that the most significant are personal (leisure-communicative activity and activity in the field of self-development) and professional (educational and develop­mental activity) self-realization, while social (spiritual-religious, voluntary and socio-po­litical activity) is less significant in student population [3; 12].

Other variables involved in the study, namely the participants’ personality char­acteristics and various indicators of their emotional intelligence, are within the rang­es typical for this age group.

Table 2 summarizes the data of pairwise comparisons (between the two groups) of variables that have significant correlations with the indicator of professional experi­ence.The absence of statistically signifi­cant differences in indicators of emotional intelligence reflects that the presence of this construct is relatively stable (compat­ible) throughout the entire sample — as the H2 hypothesis suggested.

In contrast, there are statistically sig­nificant (and approaching significance) dif­ferences in the levels of personal (p = .01) and professional (p = .05) self-realization, with higher values of both in the group of studying respondents, but not social self-realization (p = .10).In other words, social self-realization “sags” in comparison with the other two types of self-realization for both working and studying respondents.

No matter how characteristic of this age period this tendency may be, it requires an explanation, and if necessary (as low social self-realization could be associated with the risk of maladjustment), adequate compensation, including by means of psy­chological correction.

To better understand what factors influ­ence the respondents’ subjective percep­tion of their social self-realization, several models of hierarchical multiple regression analysis were tested with the social self-realization indicator as a dependent vari­able and professional experience, Big Five personality characteristics and some parameters of emotional intelligence as predictors — separately for the groups of working and studying respondents.

Only one model, using indices of ‘extra­version’ and ‘understanding emotions’ as predictors, revealed statistically significant results (Table 3).

The overall explanatory power of the model stands at 20.9% and 13.4% for the working and studying groups, respectively.Furthermore, the relationships found for these two groups were almost diametrically opposite.

Professional experience is a significant negative predictor of social self-realization among the working respondents (β = –0.40, p < .01), independently explaining up to 11.4% of the spread in values of the de­pendent variable, while for the studying respondents this factor is practically incon­sequential (β = 0.02, ns).In both groups, ‘extraversion’ is a positive but not statisti­cally significant predictor.For the studying respondents, this indicator appears as a trend, approaching a statistically significant value uniquely contributing to the explana­tory power of the model 4.2% (p = .08).

Finally, ‘understanding emotions’ is a statistically significant predictor for both groups, but its contribution goes in the op­posite direction.For those who combine work and study, it is negative (β = –0.32, p < .05) and explains 8.1% (p = .03) of variability of the dependent variable.The corresponding values for the indicator of ‘understanding emotions’ in non-working students are: β = 0.32 (p < .01) and 9.2% (p = .01).

Similar data are reported in [2]: teach­ers with a high level of professional burn­out, accumulated throughout a long but unsatisfying professional activity (i.e., long experience correlates with an increase in dissatisfaction) are characterized by a constantly reduced mood background and pronounced scepticism, and their activity (including socially oriented) ceases to be purposeful and productive.Their profes­sional motivation consists predominantly of negative motives (fear of losing a job and the related payments, of been repri­manded, etc.).Such teachers think about how to radically change something in their lives for the better, but it is especially chal­lenging for them due to the reduced ability to understand their own emotions and the emotions of other people.

Thus, as an essential part of the an­swer to the third research question, only the unique role of emotional intelligence received statistically significant support, although the nature of its relationship with other variables is fundamentally different for the groups of working and studying re­spondents.For the former, ‘understanding emotions’ (of their own and people around them) can make an additional contribution to a more acute awareness of the lack of demand for social pursuit in their profes­sional activity — neither they themselves nor their colleagues attach much impor­tance to behaviors not supported by prag­matic interests.Accordingly, high sensitiv­ity to emotions allows them to feel it faster and perceive more accurately.On the con­trary, for the latter group (who are not yet under the pressure to focus exclusively on their professional careers and are open to other types of socially-oriented activities), a higher level of understanding emotions can help determine which social activity and which partners for its implementation to choose and, thus, optimize the degree of involvement in it (benefit more from so­cial activities and, as a result, experience higher degree of self-realization).

Conclusion

  1. The results obtained by the study are based on a sample with the predomi­nance of females (86% — women and 14% — men), as well as young people who are not formally involved in social projects.This sample is fairly representa­tive and has characteristics typical of most young adults in Russian higher education.This applies both to the variables common for the entire sample (personal character­istics, level of emotional intelligence and low degree of social self-realization), and for those characteristics that emphasize differences within the sample (higher rates of personal and professional self-realiza­tion among the studying compared to the working respondents).The role of profes­sional experience (in contrast to age) is clearly observed in the differential dynam­ics of self-realization, but not in personal characteristics and not in the indicators of emotional intelligence.With an increase in professional experience, all types of self-realization (social, in particular) tend to decrease.
  2. The difference in the nature of the pair-wise relationships between the pre­dicting variables and the level of social self-realization (as a criterion variable) in the groups of studying and working has been established.Professional experience is a significant negative predictor of the degree of social self-realization among working re­spondents.The ability to understand emo­tions reduces the degree of social self-re­alization among working respondents, but increases it among studying respondents.
  3. For both working and studying re­spondents, extraversion is a positive, but statistically insignificant predictor of social self-realization.

Low levels of social self-realization in young adults create potential challenges to their social and psychological adaptation, to the effectiveness of professional activities and interpersonal contacts.However, there are different ways to address this problem, including various methods of psychologi­cal correction.When carrying out some of these corrective measures with working youth, it is necessary to pay attention to the harmonization of the self-concept and the development of emotional intelligence, in particular, understanding one’s own and others’ emotions.

As young adults gain work experience, they may become disillusioned with their professional activities and develop profes­sional burnout, excessive self-criticism, as­sociated with the decreased social activity, initiative and perseverance.Early recogni­tion of such tendencies by young people themselves (due to higher emotional intel­ligence and, in particular, a better ability to understand emotions) may allow them to seek earlier and more actively and to suc­cessfully find ways to compensate for the problems, for example, by dividing atten­tion and directing efforts towards various complementary goals instead of concen­trating them on a single one — such as, professional career or material well-being.

As part of the psychological and peda­gogical support for young people in their student life, curators of study groups can be recommended to carry out activities aimed at involving students in socially useful, cul­tural, and sports activities, to form socio-centric motivation by using effective team building methods, and also by encouraging students to participate in start-ups and vari­ous business projects.

The effectiveness of such activities will be largely determined by the ability of students to reasonably balance them, find reliable partners and like-minded people, predict the success of their efforts based on the reaction of other people involved in joint projects and of their target audiences.With an increase in the level of emotional intelligence of students, their subsequent entrepreneurial self-efficacy increases, es­pecially for those who pay more attention to the applied and innovative education [22].

Also, for psychologists who work with students, it makes sense to use applied techniques aimed at increasing the internal resource for self-realization, in particular, at developing emotional intelligence through the appropriate psychological training.

A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of emotional intelligence training con­firms its potential benefits by reporting a statistically significant overall effect size of r = 51 [14].Moreover, emotional intel­ligence training promoted an increase in the indicator of understanding emotions significantly more than of the other scales (r = .69).It is possible that emotional intel­ligence training has the greatest effect on those competencies that are important for academic performance — several studies conducted in educational institutions con­firm a greater increase in the participants’ ability to understand emotions.Emotional intelligence training programs have the potential of positively impacting academic performance and, indirectly — social and personal self-realization of young adults.

Without a doubt, among the most im­portant directions the further research could aim at are the following:

(1) comparative analysis of indicators of social self-realization of volunteers and young people who do not take part in infor­mal socially oriented events;

(2) comparison of data obtained on samples with different gender and profes­sional experience compositions;

(3) more in-depth analysis of the na­ture of the relationships between social self-realization and personal psychological characteristics of respondents, including various aspects of their emotional and so­cial intelligence.

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Information About the Authors

Yulia V. Obukhova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Chair of Psychology of development, Southern Federal University, Rostov-na-Donu, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8976-4650, e-mail: uvobukhova@yandex.ru

Eugene F. Borokhovski, Doctor of Psychology, Associate Professor, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5615-0417, e-mail: eugene.borokhovski@concordia.ca

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