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Mechanisms of Action in Concurrent Parent-Child Mindfulness Training: a Qualitative Exploration

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Abstract

This study examined potential processes of change and mechanisms of action in an 8-week manualized mindfulness intervention for adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and their parents. Five families (five adolescents aged 13–18 and seven parents) participated in semi-structured interviews about their lived experiences of mindfulness 1 to 3 months after the intervention. Thematic analysis guided by a phenomenological approach revealed several potential underlying mechanisms of action contributing to improved peer and family relationship quality after mindfulness training. Themes were consistent among parents and adolescents. Participant descriptions were indicative of enhanced present-focused awareness and detached self-observation, contributing to improved self-monitoring and self-regulation of attention, behavior, and emotions. Participants reported becoming more adept at implementing adaptive emotion regulation strategies (e.g., cognitive reappraisal, problem-solving, and acceptance) and relying less on maladaptive emotion regulation strategies (e.g., rumination). Parents and adolescents described a parallel process of enhanced self-awareness and self-regulation that conjointly contributed to increased empathy, reduced emotional reactivity, improved communication, and reductions in the intensity and duration of conflicts. Furthermore, as individuals in the parent-child dyad became more adept at regulating their emotions, they mutually reinforced the emotion regulation skills of their social partner. A model of the co-regulatory process of change in parent-adolescent mindfulness training is proposed.

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Acknowledgements

Preparation of this paper was supported in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We extend our deepest appreciation to Susan Bogels and her colleagues who developed the MYmind program, Ashley Brunsek and her team of research assistants for their contributions to the implementation of the study, and Olesya Falenchuk for her guidance with data analysis. We are very grateful to our participants from whom we have learned a great deal.

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Correspondence to Jillian Haydicky.

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This study was funded by The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant number 489309).

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Haydicky, J., Wiener, J. & Shecter, C. Mechanisms of Action in Concurrent Parent-Child Mindfulness Training: a Qualitative Exploration. Mindfulness 8, 1018–1035 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0678-1

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