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Testing for an Effect of a Mindfulness Induction on Child Executive Functions

Anna Leyland, Lisa-Marie Emerson, Georgina Rowse
Published: 13 March 2018
Mindfulness , Volume 9, pp 1807-1815; doi:10.1007/s12671-018-0923-2

Abstract: Several sessions of mindfulness practice can exert positive gains for child executive functions (EF); however, the evidence for effects of a mindfulness induction, on EF for adults, is mixed and this effect has not been tested in children. The immediate effect of an age appropriate 3-min mindfulness induction on EF of children aged 4–7 years was tested. Participants (N = 156) were randomly assigned to a mindfulness induction or dot-to-dot activity comparison group before completing four measures of EF. A composite score for EF was calculated from summed z scores of the four EF measures. A difference at baseline in behavioural difficulties between the mindfulness induction and comparison group meant that data was analysed using a hierarchical regression. The mindfulness induction resulted in higher average performance for the composite EF score (M = 0.12) compared to the comparison group (M = − 0.05). Behavioural difficulties significantly predicted 5.3% of the variance in EF performance but participation in the mindfulness or comparison induction did not significantly affect EF. The non-significant effect of a mindfulness induction to exert immediate effects on EF fits within broader evidence reporting mixed effects when similar experimental designs have been used with adults. The findings are discussed with consideration of the extent to which methodological differences may account for these mixed effects and how mindfulness inductions fit within broader theoretical and empirical understanding of the effects of mindfulness on EF.
Keywords: Children / executive function / Mindfulness / experiment / induction

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