Program

Feb 23, 2014

OVERVIEW

The Mindfulness Intervention for Urban Youth is a school-based program that uses yoga-based exercise and related practices to improve at-risk urban children’s capacity for sustained attention, and their awareness of and ability to regulate their thoughts, emotions, and physiological responses to stress.  This random-assignment study compared 4th– and 5th -graders at two schools who received the 12-week intervention, to those at two schools who did not receive any programming, immediately following the intervention. Children who participated in the intervention reported engaging in significantly fewer involuntary coping strategies than their peers in the control group did.  However, the intervention did not have a significant impact on children’s depressive symptoms, positive or negative affect, or the quality of their relationships with friends and school.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Urban children at high risk for emotional, behavioral, or academic difficulties

The Mindfulness Intervention for Urban Youth is a school-based intervention that aims to improve at-risk urban children’s capacity for sustained attention, and their awareness of and ability to regulate their thoughts, emotions, and physiological responses to stress.  The intervention consists of four 45-minutes sessions each week for 12 weeks, which are held during non-academic “resource time” during the school day and led by two instructors from the Holistic Life Foundation, a nonprofit that provides yoga programs to inner city youth and children. During each session, instructors lead children in yoga-based physical activity, and teach them breathing techniques to calm and “center” themselves.  At the end of each session, children lie on their backs with their eyes closed, while instructors walk them through a guided mindfulness practice (e.g., paying attention to each breath, or sending out positive energy to others).  Additionally, at each session instructors provide brief explicit instruction on topics such as managing stress, positive relationships, and emotional and physical health. Sessions are designed to decrease children’s depressive symptoms and their involuntary coping strategies (i.e., rumination, intrusive thoughts, emotional arousal, physiological arousal, and impulsive actions), as well as to improve their affect and the quality of their relationships with friends and with school.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B L., and Leaf, P. J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth.  Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(7), 985-994.

Evaluated population: A total of 97 4th– and 5th-grade participants were recruited from four public elementary schools in Baltimore. The mean age was 9.7 for 4th-graders and 10.6 for 5th-graders.  Slightly more than half of participants were female (61%). Eighty percent of students were African American, 4 percent were Latino, 4 percent were White, and 7 percent were mixed race or another race.

Approach: Twenty-five students at each school were randomly selected from among those who provided consent.  Two schools were randomly assigned to a treatment group that received 12 weeks of the mindfulness intervention while the other two schools were assigned to a control group which received no programming. Analyses showed that children in the treatment group were more likely to be in 4th grade and to be younger, but that there were no significant differences between the two groups on pre-test scores on psychosocial outcome variables.

At the beginning of the study and immediately after the end of the intervention (or after 12 weeks for control group students), students completed questionnaires to assess their depressive symptoms, positive and negative emotions, involuntary use of strategies to cope with stress (i.e., rumination, intrusive thoughts, emotional arousal, physiological arousal, and impulsive actions), and the quality of their relationships with friends and with school.

Results:

Children in the treatment group reported significantly less rumination and emotional arousal, significantly fewer intrusive thoughts, and marginally significant reductions in the number of impulsive actions they engaged in, and in the amount of physiological arousal they experienced.

The intervention did not have a significant impact on children’s depressive symptoms, positive or negative affect, or the quality of their relationships with friends and school.  However, children in the control group did report marginally more trust in their friends than their peers in the treatment group did.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B L., and Leaf, P. J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth.  Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(7), 985-994.

Website: http://hlfinc.org/services/stress-reduction-mindfulness-curriculum/

Contact Information

Holistic Life Foundation

2008 N. Smallwood St.

Baltimore, MD 21216

Phone: (410)-669-0645

Fax: (410)-532-2278

Company Email: info@hlfinc.org

KEYWORDS: Children, Elementary, Co-ed, High Risk, Urban, School-Based, Skills Training, Depression/Mood Disorders, Other Mental Health, Other Relationships