The present study explores the relationships between emotional competence, group cohesion and perceived satisfaction among participants in mutual-aid support groups. It is argued that the degree of emotional competence is what determines whether member interactions build cohesion, and that group cohesion acts as a mediator in the relationship between emotional competence and perceived satisfaction. A questionnaire was administered to 89 (62W) participants in mutual-aid support groups from different areas (family problems, bereavement elaboration, dependencies, mental health, disability). The questionnaire included the Italian version of the Emotional Intelligence Assessment; two instruments which are part of the test battery "Ass3D" by Zammuner and Kafetsios, measuring "emotion regulation" and an individual’s ability of facial emotion recognition; the GEQ, which measures the two factors of social and task cohesion; and a feeling thermometer that measures perceived satisfaction. A path analysis shows that emotional intelligence fosters social cohesion and that social cohesion, in turn, encourages the satisfaction of group members, thus confirming its mediating role. Implications for participation in mutual-aid groups and possible directions for future research are discussed.
Keywords: Emotional competence, group cohesion, mutual-aid support group, emotional intelligence, task cohesion, perceived satisfaction