A Randomized Trial Evaluating School-Based Mindfulness Intervention for Ethnic Minority Youth: Exploring Mediators and Moderators of Intervention Effects

Abstract

The study examined the efficacy of a school-based mindfulness intervention on mental health and emotion regulation outcomes among adolescents in a wait-list controlled trial. The study also explored mediators and moderators of intervention effects. A total of 145 predominantly ethnic minority (Asian and Latino) 9th grade students with elevated mood symptoms were randomized to receive a 12-week mindfulness intervention at the start of the academic year, or in the second semester of the year. Students completed measures of emotion regulation and mental health symptoms at baseline, post-intervention, and 3-month follow-up. Intent-to-treat analyses revealed significant treatment effects of the mindfulness intervention for internalizing symptoms and perceived stress at post-treatment. Pooled pre-to-post treatment analyses of the entire sample revealed a small effect size for attention problems, medium for internalizing and externalizing problems, and large for perceived stress. We also found a small effect size for cognitive reappraisal, medium for expressive suppression, emotional processing, emotional expression, and rumination and large for avoidance fusion. Mediation analyses showed that treatment effects on internalizing symptoms and perceived stress were mediated by reductions in expressive suppression and rumination. Moderation analyses revealed that treatment effects were larger among youth with more severe problems at baseline for internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and perceived stress. However, for attention problems, students with lower severity at baseline appeared to have larger treatment gains. The study provided evidence that mindfulness intervention was beneficial for low-income ethnic minority youth in reducing perceived stress and internalizing problems, and improving emotion regulation outcomes. Furthermore, mindfulness training was associated with reduced mental health symptoms via improvements in emotion regulation.

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Funding

This study was funded by the Spencer Foundation (Grant #201600077; 2015–2017, $49,909 direct costs; PI: Joey Fung).

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Correspondence to Joanna J. Kim.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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The authors attest that they have complied with ethical standards, including, but not limited to, oversight by the Institutional Review Board of the Fuller Theological Seminary and University of California, Los Angeles.

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Informed assent was obtained by all study participants and informed consent was obtained by participant parents/guardians.

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Fung, J., Kim, J.J., Jin, J. et al. A Randomized Trial Evaluating School-Based Mindfulness Intervention for Ethnic Minority Youth: Exploring Mediators and Moderators of Intervention Effects. J Abnorm Child Psychol 47, 1–19 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-018-0425-7

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Keywords

  • School-based intervention
  • Mindfulness
  • Ethnic minority youth
  • Depression
  • Emotion regulation