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Elementary school-based program boosts cognitive skills in children

Posted 02.23.2015 | by AMRA

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Educators and administrators seek out school-based programs that help students develop self-awareness, self-regulation, relationship, and decision-making skills. Schonert-Reichl et al. [Developmental Psychology] evaluated a mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculum (MindUP) to see if it improved children’s cognitive control, well-being, prosocial behavior, and academic performance.

Ninety-nine British Columbian public school 4th and 5th graders had their classrooms randomly assigned to either the MindUP program or a routine social responsibility curriculum. The 4-month MindUP intervention included 3-minute mindfulness exercises (breathing and listening) repeated 3 times daily. It also included twelve 40-50 minute weekly lessons on mindfulness, perspective taking, optimism, empathy, gratitude, kindness, and community service.

The control group followed the standard British Columbian public school curriculum. The children were assessed before and after the interventions on computerized tests of executive function, self-report measures of pro-sociality, and year-end math grades were also obtained from school records.

The MindUP children showed significantly greater improvement in executive function reaction time. They also showed significant moderate-sized improvements on self-report measures of empathy, perspective taking, optimism, emotional control, self-concept depressive symptoms, and mindfulness. In contrast, controls decreased over time on these self-report measures.

MindUP children were significantly more likely to show moderate to large improvements on peer behavioral nominations for sharing, trustworthiness, helpfulness, and taking other’s points of view, while exhibiting significantly greater decreases in rule breaking and starting fights. There was also a trend towards higher math scores for MindUP participants relative to controls.

These results show that mindfulness training may provide added value to programs aimed at improving children’s emotional and social competencies. Classroom interventions like MindUp offer the promise of making a meaningful contribution to children’s future academic and […]

February 23rd, 2015|News|

Mindfulness curriculum promotes prosocial behavior in preschoolers

Posted: 12.15.2014 | by AMRA

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Young children’s capacity to self-regulate attention and emotion contributes to their scholastic success and predicts their academic attainment. There is a need for programs that enhance children’s self-regulation skills, and mindfulness-based interventions that promote sustained attention, self-monitoring, and cognitive flexibility may be good candidates. Flook et al. [Developmental Psychology] developed a mindfulness-based Kindness Curriculum (KC) for preschool-aged children and tested its ability to improve their executive functioning, self-regulation, and academic and social development.

Sixty-eight ethnically-diverse children in 6 urban Midwestern preschools were randomly assigned to either KC or a wait-list control condition. KC was administered in two 20-30 minute weekly sessions over 12 weeks, and emphasized mindfulness, empathy, gratitude and sharing through multiple modalities including music, children’s literature, and movement. The children were tested immediately before and after the program on behavioral tasks of willingness to share and willingness to delay gratification, and computerized tasks of cognitive flexibility and freedom from distraction. Their teachers rated their social competence before and after the intervention and assigned routine report card grades three months after program completion.

The KC children showed significantly greater improvement in their teacher-rated prosocial behavior (Cohen’s d = 0.29) and emotional regulation (d = 0.25), than did the control children. The KC children also showed significantly greater report card improvement on Approaches to Learning (d = 0.54), Health and Physical Development (d = 0.56), and Social and Emotional Development (d = 0.97).

On the willingness-to-share task (a task involving the children dividing up ten stickers between themselves and their peers), control children displayed significantly more selfish behavior over time, reserving more of the stickers for themselves, while the KC children did not display […]

December 15th, 2014|News|

Mothers’ mindfulness and infant brain development

Posted: 07.11.2014 | by AMRA

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Previous studies have shown that expectant mothers’ anxiety and stress can adversely affect their children’s brain development. If this is so, is it possible that expectant mothers’ levels of mindfulness can have a positive, protective effect on their children’s brain development?

van den Heuvel et al. [Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience] tested this possibility by assessing mindfulness (using a short form of the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory) and anxiety (using a symptom checklist) in 78 expectant mothers during the second trimester of pregnancy. Nine months after their infants were born, the research team assessed the infants’ auditory processing by measuring their brain’s electrical responsiveness to sounds, or “auditory evoked event related potentials” (ERPs) using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure this responsiveness.

The infants were presented with series of sounds: a frequently presented tone with a base frequency of 500 vibrations per second interspersed with less frequently presented sounds such as the sound of a door slamming or a dog barking. The researchers analyzed two waveform components of the infants’ brain responses to sounds: a “P150” component (an electrically positive component of an EEG wave occurring at approximately 150 milliseconds after the presentation of a sound) reflecting selective attention to a particular stimulus together with suppression of attention to other stimuli, and an “N250” component (an electrically negative component of an EEG wave occurring at approximately 250 milliseconds after the presentation of a sound) tied to turning one’s attention to a novel stimulus.

Mothers’ mindfulness during pregnancy was associated with significantly larger infant P150 wave amplitudes and significantly smaller infant N250 wave amplitudes. Maternal anxiety during pregnancy was associated with significantly larger infant N250 wave amplitudes. […]

July 11th, 2014|News|

MindfulKids Helps Children Differentiate Emotions

Posted from archive: 01.29.2013 | by AMRA

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Weijer-Bergsma et al. [Journal of Child and Family Studies] studied the effects of a MindfulKids school-based intervention on 199 boys and girls (aged 8-12) from diverse ethnic backgrounds in three Dutch primary schools. The 6-week program, modeled on MBSR, was taught in twice-weekly 30-minute sessions. Classroom teachers reinforced the program with daily 5-minute meditations. Half the children initially completed the program, while those in a wait-list control completed the program afterwards.

At program’s end, the children had enhanced their bodily awareness and shared emotions more readily. At 7-week follow-up, the children maintained those gains and also improved their ability to differentiate emotions, increased their sense that life was meaningful and manageable, and decreased rumination and analysis of emotions. In addition, the parents reported decreased anxiety and angry/aggressive behavior at home. All these effects were small, yet significant. Lastly, teachers noted a friendlier, more respectful classroom climate.

The children’s response to the intervention depended on their degree of rumination. Non-ruminators increased bodily awareness and attention to other’s emotions, and decreased angry/aggressive behavior. Ruminators, on the other hand, already high at pretest on bodily awareness and attention to other’s emotions and low on angry/aggressive behaviors, showed no such changes. Instead, they decreased analyzing emotions (already high at pretest), in line with the MindfulKids emphasis on observing but not getting entangled in emotions.

Reference:

van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A. R., de Bruin, E. I., & Bögels, S. M. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(5), 775-787.

[Link to abstract]

December 24th, 2013|News|