Background and objective: Many urban youth experience significant and unremitting negative stressors, including those associated with community violence, multigenerational poverty, failing educational systems, substance use, limited avenues for success, health risks, and trauma. Mindfulness instruction improves psychological functioning in a variety of adult populations; research on mindfulness for youth is promising, but has been conducted in limited populations. Informed by implementation science, we evaluated an adapted mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program to ameliorate the negative effects of stress and trauma among low-income, minority, middle school public school students.
Methods: Participants were students at two Baltimore City Public Schools who were randomly assigned by grade to receive adapted MBSR or health education (Healthy Topics [HT]) programs. Self-report survey data were collected at baseline and postprogram. Deidentified data were analyzed in the aggregate, comparing MBSR and HT classes, by using regression modeling.
Results: Three hundred fifth- to eighth-grade students (mean 12.0 years) were in MBSR and HT classes and provided survey data. Participants were 50.7% female, 99.7% African American, and 99% eligible for free lunch. The groups were comparable at baseline. Postprogram, MBSR students had significantly lower levels of somatization, depression, negative affect, negative coping, rumination, self-hostility, and posttraumatic symptom severity (all Ps < .05) than HT.
Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that mindfulness instruction improves psychological functioning and may ameliorate the negative effects of stress and reduce trauma-associated symptoms among vulnerable urban middle school students. Additional research is needed to explore psychological, social, and behavioral outcomes, and mechanisms of mindfulness instruction.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02493218.
Copyright © 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.