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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Effects of a Web-Based Mindfulness Intervention on Youths’ Socioemotional, Cognitive, and Physiological Adjustment

  • Author(s): Shih, Wu Hsuan
  • Advisor(s): Davis, Elizabeth L
  • et al.

Mindfulness meditation (MM) is the process of purposefully regulating attention, bringing awareness to current experiences, and relating to those experiences in an open and accepting way (Semple, Lee, Rosa, & Miller, 2009). Previous studies have demonstrated benefits of MM that support children's adjustment, but these effects have not been comprehensively examined in adolescence (Rempel, 2012). MM has also been shown to help control major stress responses systems in the human body (e.g., autonomic nervous system), making it important to consider individual differences in the activity of these systems. Additionally, the educational world is transitioning to using technology to expand distance education, promoting accessibility to broader audiences. Most studies on MM interventions have utilized in-person training. Thus, investigation of a web-based intervention for youth is needed to assess its feasibility. The first goal of my dissertation is to investigate the effects of a web-based MM intervention on youths’ adjustment across three domains of functioning: socio-emotional, cognitive, and physiological. The second goal is to investigate physiological regulation as an individual difference factor that could vary the effects of a MM intervention.

63 youth were followed over a span of 7 weeks and were randomly assigned to either the control or the experimental condition. The experimental condition participated in weekly online MM sessions, while the control condition participated in a matched online curriculum that omitted MM. Multiple repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to investigate differences between conditions. Results yielded mixed findings in youths’ compassion for others, where those in the experimental condition did not show clear improvements across time, like I originally predicted. Results also yielded mixed findings for youths’ self-compassion and use of reappraisal depending on their initial physiological regulation. These findings also did not reflect clear patterns of change over time. Taken together, the current study is one of the first to test the feasibility of a web-based mindfulness intervention and to investigate the role of physiological regulation as an individual difference factor. Results provide preliminary evidence that interventions delivered via a web-based platform for youth might need additional refinement and evaluation to optimize its success.

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