Investigating the Effects of Mindfulness on Children’s Executive Function, Emotional Regulation, Stress, and Academic Performance Compared to a Control Condition
Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
Mindfulness is a growing field in the study of psychological well-being, with reports of individuals experiencing increases in resilience and reduced stress. The current research on mindfulness lacks information on a comprehensive analysis on the relationship between mindfulness and executive function, emotional regulation, stress, and subsequent academic performance for children. Additionally, studies contain methodological issues, such as the absence of active control groups. Hence, the current study assessed the effects of mindfulness training on children’s executive function, emotional regulation, stress, and academic outcomes compared to an active control group. There were 51 younger children from grades 2 to 4 (Mean Age = 8.51, SD = .731) and 47 older children from grades 7 to 8 (Mean Age = 12.68, SD = .471) who participated in the present study. Children were randomly assigned to an eight-week Mindful Me! or Social Skills program, the active control group. Children completed pre- and post-test measures, which assessed mindful attention, emotional regulation, and executive function. Blood pressure and heart rate data were collected before and after sessions to reveal physiological stress outcomes. To assess academic performance, children completed journals.
Results indicated limited support in response to the Mindful Me! program across a range of outcomes for children at different developmental stages. The findings suggest that mindfulness can galvanize executive function skills in children in the areas of working memory and cognitive flexibility. The younger children from the Mindful Me! condition significantly increased their working memory scores from pre- to post-test in the forward portion of the task with higher effect sizes revealed for length of sequence recalled (d = .55) and total number of trials correct (d = .54). In contrast, the younger children from the active control condition had lower effect sizes for length of sequence recalled (d = .25) and for total trials correct (d = .19). Further, younger children from the Mindful Me! condition significantly increased their scores in cognitive flexibility from pre- to post-test with a higher effect size (d = .61) reported relative to younger children from the active control condition (d = .08). The results also revealed improved emotional regulation skills through significantly decreased levels of rumination from pre- to post-test for older children from the Mindful Me! condition, with a higher effect size (d = .42) reported relative to older children from the active control condition (d = .28). Older children from the Mindful Me! program further reported significant decreases on the forward portion of the working memory task and for inhibition, which was not consistent with previous literature. Finally, there were no conclusive evidence for stress and academic outcomes. The results suggest that the mindfulness has potential positive impacts on some aspects of executive function and emotional regulation for children at specific developmental periods. Further research should examine mindfulness in children within a developmental framework that recognizes that personalities, competencies, and behaviours emerge and change across childhood and early adolescence.
Hanceroglu, Lerna, "Investigating the Effects of Mindfulness on Children’s Executive Function, Emotional Regulation, Stress, and Academic Performance Compared to a Control Condition" (2017). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1956.
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