Improvements in Emotional Intelligence Following Completion of PEERS® in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
K. Murphy1, L. Purdon1, R. L. Matchullis2, M. C. Coret2 and A. McCrimmon1, (1)University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, (2)University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, CANADA
Background: Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to understand oneself, relate to others, and adapt to variable environmental demands (Bar-On & Parker, 2000). Research has identified EI as a key component of social competence and is related to quality of social interactions (Ferguson & Austin, 2010; Lopes, 2003). Given the significant impairments in social and emotional functioning observed among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Brady et al., 2014; Petrides et al., 2011), further investigation on the relation between EI and social skills is warranted. Individuals with ASD who have intact cognitive ability could benefit from interventions targeted at improving their social and emotional functioning. Therefore, it is important to identify effective interventions that target these problem areas.

Objectives:  Limited research has examined the effect of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®; Laugeson & Frankel, 2010) on EI in adolescents with ASD. PEERS® is a 14-week evidence-based, caregiver-assisted social skills intervention designed to help adolescents with ASD make and keep friends. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of participation in PEERS® on EI in adolescents with ASD.

Methods: Participants were 32 adolescents (27 males) aged 13-18 (M = 15.9, SD = 1.5) with a diagnosis of ASD and intact cognitive functioning (i.e., FSIQ ≥ 70). Adolescents were recruited from the community and completed the standard PEERS® intervention. Improvements in social skills were measured using adolescent self-reports and parent reports of the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS; Gresham & Elliot, 2008). EI was measured using the BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory: Youth Version (EQ-i:YV; Bar-On & Parker, 2000). Data was collected both pre and post intervention and was analyzed using paired samples t-tests and Pearson product-moment correlations.Results:

Results:  Results indicate that adolescents demonstrated significant improvements in overall EI (p<.05) as well as significant improvements in the intrapersonal, adaptability, and stress management domains of the EQ-i:YV (p<.05). Results also revealed significant improvements in social skills as rated by parents (p<.05) and adolescents (p<0.5) on the SSIS. Overall EI was significantly correlated (p<.05) with both self and parent ratings of social skills on the SSIS (r=.66, r=.51, respectively) prior to starting the intervention. Post-intervention overall EI significantly correlated (p<.001) with self-reported ratings (r=.79), and approached significant correlation for parent ratings (r=.33, p=.067).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that participation in PEERS® may improve EI in adolescents with ASD. Further, significant improvements in EI were related to improvement in social skills. Given the impact of social and emotional deficits in this population, the results represent an important contribution to our current understanding of the relation between EI and social skills in adolescents with ASD. Future research should examine long-term effects of PEERS® on EI to assess maintenance of improvements.