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The moderating role of emotional competence in suicidal ideation among Chinese university students

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Abstract

Aims

To explore the relationship among perceived family functioning, emotional competence and suicidal ideation and to examine the moderating role of emotional competence in suicidal ideation.

Background

Previous studies have highlighted that poor family relationships and emotional symptoms are significant predictors of suicidal ideation. However, the roles of perceived family functioning and emotional competence in predicting suicidal ideation have not been given adequate attention.

Design

A cross-sectional survey using convenience sampling.

Method

A questionnaire was administered to 302 university students from February–April in 2011 in Hong Kong. The means, standard deviations and Cronbach's alphas of the variables were computed. Pearson correlation analyses and hierarchical regression analyses were performed.

Results

Hierarchical regression analyses showed that perceived high family functioning and emotional competence were significant negative predictors of suicidal ideation. Further analyses showed that parental concern, parental control and creative use of emotions were significant predictors of suicidal ideation. Emotional competence, specifically creative use of emotions, was found to moderate the relationship between perceived family functioning and suicidal ideation.

Conclusion

The findings support the family ecological framework and provide evidence for emotional competence as a resilience factor that buffers low family functioning on suicidal ideation. Suggested measures to decrease suicidal ideation include enhancing parental concern, lessening parental control, developing students' awareness, regulation and management of their own emotions, fostering empathy towards others' emotional expression, enhancing social skills in sharing and influencing others' emotions and increasing the positive use of emotions for the evaluation and generation of new ideas.

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