Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Parents and Caregivers of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: A Community-Based Approach

Abstract

Stress among parents and other primary caregivers of children with developmental disabilities is pervasive and linked to lower quality of life, unhealthy family functioning, and negative psychological consequences. However, few programs address the needs of parents or caregivers of children with developmental disabilities. A mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program is a well-suited approach for these parents and caregivers, who may be overwhelmed by their children’s situation, anticipating future challenges and reliving past traumas. We aimed to develop, implement, and evaluate the feasibility of an MBSR program designed for this population in a community-based participatory setting. Parents and caregivers were equal partners with researchers in curriculum development, recruitment, implementation and evaluation. Two concurrent classes, morning and evening, were conducted weekly in English with simultaneous Spanish translation over 8-weeks. Classes consisted of meditation practice, supported discussion of stressors affecting parents/caregivers, and gentle stretching. Of 76 participants recruited, 66 (87 %) completed the program. All participants experienced a significant reduction (33 %) in perceived stress (p < 0.001) and parents (n = 59) experienced a 22 % reduction (p < 0.001) in parental stress. Parents/caregivers also reported significantly increased mindfulness, self-compassion, and well-being (p < 0.05). Participants continued to report significant reduction in stress 2 months after the program. Our study suggests that a community-based MBSR program can be an effective intervention to reduce stress and improve psychological well-being for parents and caregivers of children with developmental disabilities. Additional research should assess the effect of cultural or socioeconomic factors on the outcomes of the intervention and further expand MBSR programs to include community-based participatory settings.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the Robert Ellis Simon Foundation and the Achievable Foundation for generously supporting this project. We are grateful to all of the leadership and staff at Westside Regional Center and the Westside Family Resource and Empowerment Center for their time and energy on this project and, most importantly, the program participants and their families.

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Correspondence to Alicia Bazzano.

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Bazzano, A., Wolfe, C., Zylowska, L. et al. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Parents and Caregivers of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: A Community-Based Approach. J Child Fam Stud 24, 298–308 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9836-9

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Caregivers
  • Parents
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Community-based participatory research