Mindfulness in young people: is it really effective?
After the spectacular rise of Mindfulness in the last decade, there are many researches generated in order to prove its effectiveness in every time a greater number of areas on physical and mental health of the human being.
Thus, Mindfulness has extended from the original medical practice (application in patients with chronic pain and cancer) to the different aspects of psychology, such as the clinical, organizational / business, educational or those related to the field of sports, mainly.
Focusing the focus of attention in the area of education and in the application of Mindfulness techniques in children and adolescents , let's see how the effectiveness of this type of interventions can be proven by exposing the findings obtained from two recent meta-analysis works.
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What is a meta-analysis?
A meta-analysis is a scientific and statistical work that brings together a large group of research conducted on the same subject in order to analyze them together. Thus, it could be said that a meta-analysis would be equivalent to a review of all the published literature that, by way of summary, compares the scientific rigor of all the studies in their entirety.
Thus, The validity and reliability of a meta-analysis is very high and provides data with greater consistency, greater statistical power and greater precision in relation to all the variables that may be playing a significant role in the results because the experimental population samples (the groups of subjects that participate) are very broad.
In addition, it allows to observe if there are methodological issues in the studies that may be conditioning the data obtained in them.
The effectiveness of Mindfulness in young people
Next, the results of the two meta-analyzes indicated, found in the recent databases, both of international origin (Germany and USA respectively) will be presented. on the effectiveness of Mindfulness techniques in children and adolescents .
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Interventions based on mindfulness in schools
In the meta-analysis elaborated by Zenner et al. (2014) the selection of publications made in 12 databases was used and through contact with expert figures in the field in question. 24 investigations were taken , of which 13 were published and 9 of them had comparative measures between experimental group and control group. Thus, the sample related to the first group amounted to 1348 students and the second to 876 students.
The comparative analysis of these works was complex since the methodology, the objectives and the data analysis carried out for each of them was very heterogeneous. From an initial total of the 42 works found initially, the following inclusion criteria were applied to perform the meta-analysis:
- The interventions they were based on content of mindfulness .
- The implementation of the program was carried out at the school.
- The students belong to courses located between 1st and 12th grade .
- The results presented were quantitative.
After the application of these criteria, 24 of the 42 initial articles were selected. The components of the interventions made in the 24 finalist studies included mainly: observation of breathing, psychoeducation and group discussions . The areas that were valued together were cognitive performance, emotional problems, stress and coping, and resilience.
The results threw a strongly positive correlation in the increase of academic performance ; moderately significant (although sufficiently significant) in resilience and stress reduction; small but significant correlation in the resilience variable; and small and not significant for the measures of emotional problems.
Thus, this review concludes that the greatest benefits occur in the area of cognitive domain although it also seems to influence (with less intensity) stress level, coping with adverse situations and recovering them.
Assessment of the quality of the study
Regarding the assessment of the scientific rigor indicated by the researchers, among the strengths of this review we can highlight the breadth in the search for the work done on this subject to date, the use of databases and criteria of inclusion have allowed an exhaustive and complete compilation of existing publications until the start date of the meta-analysis.
Finally, the text proposes the need to carry out interventions for the teaching team in order to equip them with the necessary training on these contents and thus facilitate greater integration by the students receiving these Mindfulness programs.
However, in reference to the limitations presented by the same, those responsible for the text remember the heterogeneity between the studies included in the review, so the results of the same should be taken as guidance. Thus, the implementation and typology of specific contents of each of the interventions based on Mindfulness that have been carried out in each of the schools present insufficient uniformity, which makes a totally objective comparison difficult.
Finally, it is also pointed out that The samples that form the studies reviewed are not very broad , with which it is deduced that the results are provisional and must be supported by greater evaluations.
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Full-attention interventions with young people: a meta-analysis
In the work of Zoogman et al. (2014) is the first that aims to shed light on the review of studies published between 2004 and 2011 in which full-attention programs have been applied in a population located within the vital stage of youth (under 18 years of age).
Prior to the presentation of the results obtained, it is worth highlighting the data provided in the introductory part of the text, since the state of development of Mindfulness research in children and / or young people is synthesized at a quantitative level. More specifically, the authors mention that there are very few studies that have taken as experimental sample subjects in adolescent age without clinical diagnosis.
Thus, the works that have tried to prove the effectiveness of mindfulness in this age group have been based on groups with learning difficulties and various disorders. In addition, it is indicated that the age range most studied covers from pre-school to high school, focusing on school population .
On the other hand, the variables that have most popularly appeared in the publications analyzed refer to academic performance, social skills (Beauchemin et al., 2008), level of stress and anxiety (Liehr and Diaz 2010), depression (Mendelson et al., 2010), aggressive behavior (Singh et al., 2011a, b) and substance abuse (Bootzin and Stevens 2005, Britton et al., 2010).
The texts were extracted, in this case, from articles of an English-speaking magazine. After filtering the works through inclusion criteria, 20 investigations were selected, in which it was not possible to discriminate according to different sub-populations due to the scarcity of data gathered to date. The objectives of this meta-analysis are aimed at evaluating:
- What is the overall effect of the interventions based on full attention on youth?
- What treatment moderating factors (structuring, recipients, clinical / non-clinical sample, duration of treatment, frequency of sessions, etc.) are the most effective?
- ¿What results and what level of effectiveness Has it been obtained in the target sample (psychological symptoms, attention, general functioning of the individual) after the intervention through mindfulness?
The results derived from the statistical procedures of data analysis show that the interventions based on full attention studied in young population present a small effect compared to the effectiveness of other alternative interventions , although they significantly outweigh the effect of the control groups contemplated.
When clinical samples have been observed, the effect has been considered moderate and has tripled the magnitude in non-clinical samples. All this seems to indicate that mindfulness may be particularly beneficial in clinical populations .
A single variable was substantial and yielded relevant results: clinical sample vs. not clinical; The rest, such as frequency, duration, frequency of sessions, age of the sample, sample size, sex of the sample, etc., did not yield differential data. It was found, however, a substantial effect on the measures of the psychological symptoms presented, much greater than in other types of results such as care or general functioning of the individual, etc.
However, the meta-analysis does state that meditation has specifically demonstrated its effectiveness in the capacity of concentration in adolescents (for example Baijal et al., 2011 among many others), although in this review a great correlation between both variables has not been found, as it has happened with respect to the clinical symptomatology variable. Even so, the low number of publications included in the meta-analysis and the heterogeneity of the same indicates that the findings should be assessed with caution.
- Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz S. and Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools-a systematic review and meta-analys. Institute for Transcultural Health Studies, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt Oder (Germany). June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 603, Frontiers in Psychology.
- Zoogman, Goldberg S., Hoyt, W. T. & Miller, L. (2014) Mindfulness Interventions with Youth: A Meta-Analysis.Mindfulness, Springer Science (New York).