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Efficacy of outdoor adventure education in developing emotional intelligence during adolescence


Participation in outdoor adventure program by adolescent males leads to improved emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the capacity to manage personal, social, and environmental change effectively, and encompasses skills of emotional management, realism, flexibility, optimism, self-motivation, and resilience. EI affects one’s ability to adjust to life stresses and succeed in a variety of areas. Outdoor adventure education (OAE) programs are based on experiential learning (both group and individual) and involve physically- and mentally-demanding activities, often conducted in remote areas. OAE participation promotes individual growth and development, and there is evidence that OAE can contribute to enhanced EI. The purpose of this study was to determine if participation in an OAE program affects EI in adolescents and if any changes persist three months after program completion.

The OAE program attended by study participants was 23 days long and consisted of structured activities and periods of reflection. The study sample (n=76) was all grade 10 students from a private male-only school in a large city in South Africa. The participants were primarily white (no percentage is reported). The authors used an emotional quotient inventory to measure EI. The inventory was made up of five subscales: interpersonal abilities, intrapersonal abilities, stress management, adaptability, and general mood. EI was assessed before, immediately after, and three months after participation in the OAE program. The authors completed quantitative data analysis to compare EI levels before and after the OAE intervention.

Study results indicate that participation in the OAE program resulted in higher overall EI among participants, some dimensions of which were sustained over the three months following the program. At program completion, significant increases in all five subscales were reported. Improvements in intrapersonal abilities and adaptability were largest. By the three-month follow-up, improvements persisted in only three subscales: intrapersonal skills, adaptability, and general mood with improvements in adaptability the largest.

This study provides evidence that OAE participation can contribute to improvements in emotional intelligence, certain aspects of which are sustained over time.



Opper, B., Maree, J. G., Fletcher, L., Sommerville, J., (2014). Efficacy of outdoor adventure education in developing emotional intelligence during adolescence. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 24(2), 193-196.


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