Improve PTSD and Academic Burnout in Adolescents with Mindfulness and Parental Attachment
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness can help people train themselves to get unstuck from a vicious cycle of negative thinking, often a cornerstone of trauma.” – Jennifer Wolkin
Experiencing trauma is quite common. It has been estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience a significant traumatic event during their lifetime. Only a fraction will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); about 7%-8%. PTSD involves a number of troubling symptoms including reliving the event with the same fear and horror in nightmares or with a flashback. They often experience negative changes in beliefs and feelings including difficulty experiencing positive or loving feelings toward other people, avoiding relationships, avoiding situations that remind them of the event memory difficulties, or see the world as dangerous and no one can be trusted. Sufferers may feel keyed up and jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. They may experience sudden anger or irritability, may have a hard time sleeping or concentrating, may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
Mindfulness training has been found to be particularly effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD. So, it would seem reasonable to examine the relationship of individual mindfulness with the ability to cope with the aftermath of traumatic events. Adolescents have been found to be particularly vulnerable to the psychological impact of traumatic events. But, might be buffered by their positive attachment to their parents.
In today’s Research News article “Dispositional mindfulness mediates the relationships of parental attachment to posttraumatic stress disorder and academic burnout in adolescents following the Yancheng tornado.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5965031/ ), An and colleagues examine the impact of mindfulness and parental support on the ability of adolescents to deal with trauma. In particular they examine youths about a year after a traumatic tornado in their community in China. The tornado killed 99 people, injured approximately 800 and affected more than 1.6 million people. They recruited junior High School students from the affected area and measured them for mindfulness, PTSD symptoms, academic burnout, and parental attachment.
They found that the higher the level of student’s mindfulness and parental attachment the lower the level of PTSD symptoms and academic burnout. In addition, the higher the level mindfulness the higher the level of parental attachment. Employing statistical modelling, they found that parental attachment being associated with to lower PTSD symptoms and academic burnout was partially mediated by the student’s level of mindfulness. Hence, higher parental attachment was associated with lower PTSD symptoms and academic burnout directly and also indirectly by being associated with higher levels of mindfulness which, in turn, were associated with lower levels of PTSD symptoms and academic burnout.
These are interesting results but they must be interpreted cautiously as the study was correlational. As a result, causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the results suggest that having a positive attachment to parents helps to buffer the adolescent from the effects of trauma and it does so, in part, by improving the youths’ ability to be present in the moment; mindfulness. It can be speculated that positive attachment makes the youth more secure and thereby more able to perceive reality just as it is and not be overly affected by previous negative events. This, in turn, allows them to be more effective in relation to their schooling, reducing burnout.
Since, trauma occurs in such a large proportion of the population, producing tremendous suffering, it is important to find ways to lessen its impact. The results suggest that being a good parent and attaching in a positive way with your child promotes mindfulness and my buffer the child from the effects of experiencing a traumatic event.
So, improve PTSD and academic burnout in adolescents with mindfulness and parental attachment.
“The memories are so painful that many live their life trying to avoid triggers. The problem is that the triggers are everywhere.” But the development of better mindfulness skills “might allow patients to be fully present and lean into these scary or avoided situations.” – Tony King
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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An, Y., Yuan, G., Liu, Z., Zhou, Y., & Xu, W. (2018). Dispositional mindfulness mediates the relationships of parental attachment to posttraumatic stress disorder and academic burnout in adolescents following the Yancheng tornado. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 9(1), 1472989. http://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2018.1472989
- We found that parental attachment and dispositional mindfulness are both negatively correlated with PTSD and academic burnout.
- We found that parental attachment and dispositional mindfulness are both negatively correlated with academic burnout.
- We found that dispositional mindfulness mediates the relationships between parental attachment and PTSD and academic burnout
Background: Previous studies have shown that parental attachment is associated with low severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and low academic burnout in individuals who have experienced traumatic events.
Objective: The present study investigated the ways in which parental attachment is related to PTSD symptoms and academic burnout in Chinese traumatized adolescents by considering the role of dispositional mindfulness.
Method: A total of 443 Chinese adolescents who had experienced a severe tornado one year prior to this study completed measures of parental attachment, dispositional mindfulness, PTSD and academic burnout.
Results: The results showed that our model fitted the data well [χ2/df = 2.968, CFI = 0.971, TLI = 0.955, RMSEA (90% CI) = 0.067 (0.052–0.082)] and revealed that dispositional mindfulness partially mediates the relationship between parental attachment, PTSD severity and academic burnout.
Conclusions: The findings suggested that dispositional mindfulness and parental attachment may be two critical resources in dealing with traumatization and academic burnout.