Supportive Environments Promote the Development of Mindfulness in Adolescents.
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness processes and practices can help young people develop emotional resilience, self-awareness and regulation skills that assist them in taking greater responsibility for their behaviors. – Karen Pace
Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. But what is absorbed depends on the environment. Supportive environments can promote positive development while trouble with peers can interfere. Peer victimization is traumatic for the adolescent and can leave in its wake symptoms which can haunt the victims for the years. It is unclear, however, how the environment including supportive environments and the presence of peer victimization might affect the development of mindfulness in adolescents.
In today’s Research News article “Naturalistic development of trait mindfulness: A longitudinal examination of victimization and supportive relationships in early adolescence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8104379/ ) Warren and colleagues surveyed 4th and 7th grade adolescents. They completed measures of mindfulness, peer victimization, peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and self-regulation. They then looked at the social environment in the 4th grade and how it was related to the development of mindfulness in the 7th grade.
The found that the higher the levels of peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and self-regulation and the lower the levels of peer victimization both in 4th and 7th grades the higher the levels of mindfulness at grade 7. With students with high connectedness with adults at home, peer victimization was associated with a smaller development of mindfulness. The students who had flourishing relationships in the 4th grade (high peer belonging and connectedness with adults at home and low peer victimization) had the greatest increases in mindfulness by the 7th grade.
These results suggest that conditions in the 4th grade are associated with mindfulness in the 7th grate, with feelings of belonging with other adolescents promoting the development of mindfulness and victimization by peers interfering with mindfulness development. How connected the youths feel to adults also tends to promote the development of mindfulness except when victimization is present, then the promotion is weaker. Hence, mindfulness develops best in supportive environments.
So, supportive environments promote the development of mindfulness in adolescents.
“Adolescents’ with high levels of dispositional mindfulness may lead to lower level of psychological distress including depression, anxiety, and stress.” Ying Ma
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Warren, M. T., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Gill, R., Gadermann, A. M., & Oberle, E. (2021). Naturalistic development of trait mindfulness: A longitudinal examination of victimization and supportive relationships in early adolescence. PloS one, 16(5), e0250960. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250960
Scholars have only just begun to examine elements of young adolescents’ social ecologies that explain naturalistic variation in trait mindfulness and its development over time. We argue that trait mindfulness develops as a function of chronically encountered ecologies that are likely to foster or thwart the repeated enactment of mindful states over time. Using data from 4,593 fourth and seventh grade students (50% female; MageG4 = 9.02; 71% English first language) from 32 public school districts in British Columbia (BC), Canada, we examined links from peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and peer victimization to mindfulness over time. Variable-centered analyses indicated that young adolescents with lower victimization in fourth grade reported higher mindfulness in seventh grade, and that cross-sectionally within seventh grade victimization, peer belonging, and connectedness with adults at home were each associated with mindfulness. Contrary to our hypothesis, connectedness with adults at home moderated the longitudinal association between victimization and mindfulness such that the negative association was stronger among young adolescents with high (vs. low) levels of connectedness with adults at home. Person-centered analysis of the fourth graders’ data confirmed our variable-centered findings, yielding four latent classes of social ecology whose mindfulness levels in seventh grade largely tracked with their victimization levels (from highest to lowest mindfulness): (1) flourishing relationships, (2) unvictimized but weak relationships with adults, (3) moderately victimized but strong relationships, and (4) victimized but strong relationships. Overall, our findings contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that trait mindfulness may develop as a function of ecologically normative experiences in young adolescents’ everyday lives.