The role of Emotional Intelligence in the criminal activity of young people involved with the Leeds Youth Offending Service

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Youth justice has undergone significant changes over the past fifteen years; central to this has been the prevention of offending through an actuarial risk-based model. However, the identification of risk factors largely ignored the growing area of emotional intelligence (EI). The purpose of this thesis was to identify whether young people’s EI was linked with their different aspects of their offending. The Mayer and Salovey four branch ability model of EI was adopted, assessed through the Adolescent Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test (ASUEIT) - a self-report questionnaire based on this model. For this study, the ASUEIT was used with 100 young people receiving Supervision Orders, supervised by Leeds Youth Offending Service. Thirteen of them were interviewed to gain further insight into their emotions, and check the reliability and validity of the ASUEIT for young offenders. The interviewees selected were: (i) the top and bottom decile of ASUEIT scores, (ii) those in local authority care, and (iii) those first convicted age 12 or below. The ASUEIT results raised questions and concerns, as it did not appear to assess EI with this sample in a robust or consistent way. Reasons for this were explored, and the dataset improved by negating the reverse-scoring on reverse-scored questions, producing acceptable alpha scores. These data were analysed for correlations of EI with offending patterns, and with previously identified risk factors. Some branches from the model showed negative correlations with identified risk factors, for example having offending family members and not attending mainstream school. However, principal components analysis revealed a simpler three branch model, requiring a shorter questionnaire, which could be tested in future research. Links found within the dataset suggest EI to be a valuable area for youth justice interventions to explore further, especially EI scores seemed predictive of further offending, when linked with seriousness.
Date of Award08 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Leeds
SupervisorAdam Crawford (Supervisor) & Emma Wincup (Supervisor)


  • youth offending
  • emotional intelligence
  • desistance

Cite this