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4. Research with Children

 

 

Very soon after Jon Kabat Zinn achieved some success with the MBSR programme, research into its possible effectiveness with children was conducted in the US. In 2012 John Meiklejohn and colleagues published a summary of research to date. He looked at 14 high quality studies and found improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, emotional regulation and self esteem, as well as self reported improvement in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress and fatigue. The studies were definitely promising, but Meikeljohn also reported that further research was needed with larger samples, investigation of the exact mechanisms by which the improvements were made and further work was needed to embed mindfulness into the school curriculum and ensure its effective delivery. 


In 2013 two important large scale studies were published  - one in the UK and one in Holland. The UK study found that a nine session programme delivered to secondary aged students led to fewer depressive symptoms, reduced stress and greater well being. This was the first large scale UK study published in the UK investigating the delivery of a mindfulness programme in schools. You can read the full results hereThe study from Holland, again with a large sample size (408), showed that a mindfulness programme delivered in school can not only reduce low mood, but can also help prevent children in the future becoming depressed. Given that rates of depression in adolescents are estmated as between 4% and 8%, any intervention which can reduce the possibility of developing depression would be extremely beneficial. Details of the study can be found here .  


However, Mindfulness interventions can not only help with feeling low, but may reduce anxiety, improve well being and reduce levels of aggression. Another study from Holland, this time with younger children (aged 8-12 years) showed reductions in a variety of measures (questionnaires given both to the children and to the parents). Intriguingly, the results showed improvement in well being and reduced stress and aggression not only from before the programme to just after (pre- to post-) but these factors seemed to improve yet further at follow up (7 weeks after the group programme was given) compared to when tested immediately after the intervention programme was delivered. This suggests that some of the children may have continued with the practices, and this enabled the results to improve further. The abstract of the paper can be found  here. The authors suggest that perhaps giving the teachers some mindfulness experience themselves may well enhance this follow up capability (as well as perhaps being beneficial for the teachers). MAP has been designed with precisely this view in mind - to enable teachers to embed the mindfulness practices and sustain them long after the official programme has finished.  

 

Research conducted through UCL (University College London) has found that the MAP programme significantly raises levels of mindfulness in primary aged children. Further research is commencing shortly looking at class teachers delivering MAP and results will be posted as soon as they are available (hopefully in the summer of 2017).