A Randomized Micro-trial of a Loving-Kindness Meditation to Help Parents Respond to Difficult Child Behavior Vignettes

Abstract

Loving-kindness meditations (LKM) have not been examined within a parenting context, which is surprising given that LKM helps to build social relationships and connectedness through promoting caring pro-social behavior. This study examined the effects of LKM in a parenting context, using a fifteen-minute audio-guided LKM. In a group-based design micro trial, a total of 61 parents (50 female, mean age = 38.41 years, SD = 6.11) were randomly assigned to receive a LKM or a matched control focused imagery (FI) exercise. Participants completed a series of measures that examined compassion, parenting and child behavior, and parent’s emotional, cognitive and behavioral responses to a set of six hypothetical vignettes describing difficult child behavior. We also assessed for parents’ acceptability towards LKM as a strategy. As predicted, parents who received LKM displayed higher levels of self-compassion and motivation to show themselves compassion compared to the control group; however not compassion towards others. Parents in the LKM compared to the FI group also had more positive (e.g., calm and sympathetic) and less negative emotional (e.g., frustration and anger) responses to the situations of childhood distress; however, parent’s cognitive and behavioral responses did not significantly change. Parent’s also found LKM to be highly acceptable, with 60% indicating they would complete it weekly. The present findings suggest that LKM might be a valuable component to include in evidence-based parenting interventions.

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Author Contributions

J.K. designed the experiment, and wrote the paper. S.B. collaborated with the study assisting with data recruitment, statistical analysis and writing the manuscript.

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The ethical approval for the study was obtained from the University of Queensland.

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Kirby, J.N., Baldwin, S. A Randomized Micro-trial of a Loving-Kindness Meditation to Help Parents Respond to Difficult Child Behavior Vignettes. J Child Fam Stud 27, 1614–1628 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0989-9

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Keywords

  • Parenting
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Micro-trial
  • Compassion