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Mindful Parenting in Mental Health Care: Effects on Parental and Child Psychopathology, Parental Stress, Parenting, Coparenting, and Marital Functioning

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Abstract

This study evaluated the acceptability and effects of a Mindful Parenting course in mental health care. Parents (n = 86) referred to secondary mental health care because of their children’s and/or their own psychopathology, or parent–child relationship problems, followed a Mindful Parenting course in a group format (10 groups). Assessments took place just before the course (pre-test), immediately after the nine-week course (post-test), and at 8-week follow-up. A waitlist assessment took place only for those parents who had to wait for a course (n = 23). Measures concerned parent report of psychopathology symptoms of their target child, as well as their own psychopathology symptoms, parental stress, parenting behaviors, coparenting, and marital functioning. Only one parent dropped out and parents evaluated the program as valuable and effective in many areas of family functioning. No improvement was reported during waitlist, except for an improvement in parental externalizing symptoms. Improvements after the course occurred in the target child’s internalizing and externalizing psychopathology symptoms, parents’ own internalizing symptoms and further improvement on their externalizing symptoms. Also, improvements occurred on parental stress, parenting, and coparenting, but not on marital functioning. Improvements were generally maintained at follow-up. In conclusion, the very low dropout rate as well as the positive evaluations, suggest that Mindful Parenting is an acceptable and feasible intervention in mental health care. Mindful Parenting appears a promising new intervention for parents in mental health care, as it seems effective on a broad range of child, parent, and family variables. Studies comparing Mindful Parenting to other effective interventions, such as Parent Management training, are needed to gain more knowledge about its relative and differential effectiveness.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to all parents for participating in the study, to Anne Formsma and Dorreke Peijnenburg for their help with the data collection, to Kathleen Restifo for her feedback on an earlier version of this paper, and to Bonne Zijlstra for his statistical support.

Author information

Correspondence to Susan M. Bögels.

Appendix 1: Evaluation of the Mindful Parenting Training

Appendix 1: Evaluation of the Mindful Parenting Training

A.

  Yes No
1. Do you feel you got something of lasting value or importance as a result of taking the training? 95 % 5 %
2. Have you made any changes in your lifestyle, in dealing with your child or family, or in your child-rearing practices as a result of the training? 88 % 12 %
3. Did you become more “conscious” as a result of the training? Did this change something in relation to your thoughts, your feelings, and your reaction on your thoughts and feelings? 92 % 9 %
4. Is it your intention to keep on practicing the formal exercises, i.e. the body scan, sitting meditation, walking meditation, and laying and standing yoga? 86 % 14 %
5. Is it your intention to keep on practicing to be conscious in daily life? 95 % 5 %
6. Has the training been sufficient to move on with your life? 66 % 34 %

B.

  Never 1 or 2 times a week 3 to 4 times a week 5 to 7 times a week
1. How many times a week, on average, did you practice the meditation exercises? 2 % 36 % 37 % 24 %

C.

  Less than before the training The same as before the training More often than before the training Much more often than before the training
1. How many times do you pay attention to your child in moments you are together 0 % 14 % 66 % 21 %

D.

Did, as a result of the training, something changed on the following issues?

  Negative change No change Some positive change Great positive change
1. Knowing to take better care of myself 0 % 19 % 44 % 37 %
2. Actually taking better care of myself 0 % 27 % 53 % 20 %
3. Periods of bother, stress, frustration 2 % 9 % 71 % 19 %
4. Intensity of bother, stress, frustration 0 % 17 % 53 % 31 %
5. Believing that I can improve the relationship with my child and family 0 % 17 % 40 % 43 %
6. Feeling self-confident 2 % 28 % 40 % 31 %
7. Feeling hopeful 2 % 22 % 37 % 39 %
8. Dealing with emotions (anger, sadness, fear) 0 % 14 % 64 % 22 %
9. Awareness of what is stressful in my life 0 % 7 % 53 % 41 %
10. Awareness of stressful rearing situations at the time they are happening 2 % 9 % 53 % 36 %
11. Ability to handle stressful rearing situations appropriately 0 % 17 % 62 % 21 %

E.

Judgments about (parts of the) training (from 1 = not important at all to 10 = very important)

  Mean
1. How important has the training been for you? 8.0
2. Sitting meditation in the group 8.2
3. Sitting meditation at home 7.5
4. Walking meditation in the group 5.4
5. Walking meditation at home 5.0
6. Body scan in the group 7.8
7. Body scan at home 6.7
8. Lying/sitting yoga in the group 6.8
9. Lying/sitting yoga at home 6.3
10. Standing yoga in the group 6.6
11. Standing yoga at home 6.0
12. Awareness in daily life 8.2
13. Group discussions and education 8.5
14. The diaries 7.1
15. The texts in the workbook 7.8

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Bögels, S.M., Hellemans, J., van Deursen, S. et al. Mindful Parenting in Mental Health Care: Effects on Parental and Child Psychopathology, Parental Stress, Parenting, Coparenting, and Marital Functioning. Mindfulness 5, 536–551 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-013-0209-7

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Keywords

  • Mindful Parenting
  • Child psychopathology
  • Parental psychopathology
  • Parenting
  • Coparenting
  • Parental stress