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Perceived Benefits of Mindfulness and Health Education Programs for Minoritized Adolescents: A Qualitative Analysis

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In the context of adverse social conditions, adolescents may not progress to adulthood with the emotional and behavioral skills needed to effectively navigate inevitable life challenges. Appropriately timed, evidence-based interventions have the potential to improve youth developmental trajectories. This qualitative study explored adolescents’ perceptions of two different types of school-based programs designed to promote healthy development and decision-making: mindfulness and health education.


Focus group data were analyzed to explore adolescent perceptions of how the programs impacted them. Ninth grade students (n = 79) in three schools serving marginalized urban communities, where traumatic experiences are common, were randomly assigned to one of the two interventions as part of a trial to identify mechanisms of behavioral change. Separate focus groups were conducted for participants in the mindfulness and health education programs at each school (n = 6 focus groups). Of the 70 participants who attended one or more program sessions, 45 participated in a focus group (mean age: 14.7 years; 86.7% Black; 51.1% female).


Four themes were identified through analysis of the focus group data: (1) enhanced emotional intelligence–emotion recognition, perspective taking, and empathy (mindfulness only); (2) a mindset shift toward cognitive control through greater focus, awareness, and intentionality; (3) utilizing program skills in other contexts to manage stress or make healthy choices; and (4) reinforced and transferred program learning through sharing.


Students perceived benefits of program participation, many of which overlapped between programs. Enhanced emotional intelligence was unique to the mindfulness-based intervention. These findings have implications for the development and adaptation of school-based programs and selection of comparison or active control conditions in intervention trials.


This study is registered with (NCT03989934).

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Data Availability

De-identified aggregate data analyzed for this paper are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We are very grateful for the support of participating schools and program implementers and students’ time and willingness to participate in this study. We appreciate the high level of support from research associates and assistants: Jessica Stavig, Yuanfang Liu, Jeffrey Krick, Marcus Nole, Rachel Dows, Violet Odom, Alex Welna, Steven Sheridan, and Drs. Laura Clary and Qing Duan. We thank all participants for their time and willingness to participate in this study.


This work was supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (grant number: R61AT009856; MPIs: Fishbein, Mendelson).

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Authors and Affiliations



Jacinda K. Dariotis: conceptualization, methodology, coding, analysis, tables, original and subsequent draft preparation. Keren Mabisi: methodology, coding, analysis, original and subsequent draft preparation. Rachel Jackson-Gordon: methodology, coding, analysis, original and subsequent draft preparation. Emma Rose: writing–reviewing and editing. Tamar Mendelson and Diana Fishbein: parent study principal investigators, writing–reviewing and editing. All the authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jacinda K. Dariotis.

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Ethical Approval

Approval was obtained from the ethics committees of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Pennsylvania State University. The procedures used in this study adhere to the tenets of the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Written informed consent for participation and research finding dissemination were obtained from the parents or legal guardians and youth assent from participants.


The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely the authors’ and should not be construed as representing the opinions of NIH or any agency of the Federal Government. NIH did not have a role in study design; data collection, analysis, and interpretation; writing or submission for publication.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest or financial disclosures to report.

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Dariotis, J.K., Mabisi, K., Jackson-Gordon, R. et al. Perceived Benefits of Mindfulness and Health Education Programs for Minoritized Adolescents: A Qualitative Analysis. Mindfulness 14, 1346–1361 (2023).

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