Author ORCID Identifier

0000-0003-4818-9247

Date of Award

Summer 8-13-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Andrew Roach, PhD

Second Advisor

Dr. Catherine Perkins

Third Advisor

Dr. Don Davis

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Ann Kruger

Abstract

Executive functions (EFs) develop rapidly in preschoolers and lay an important foundation for school readiness. One potential method of supporting EF development is through mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). While previous studies with adults have supported this approach, research has been more limited for child populations. This dissertation investigated the relationship between MBIs and the development of EF in early childhood. First, a meta-analysis was conducted that investigated the effectiveness of MBIs in improving EF skills for children as well as potential moderators of effectiveness. Inclusion criteria were dissertation or peerreviewed articles published by December 31, 2015 that measured the impact of MBIs on EF outcomes in participants 18 years or younger. Thirty-two articles were identified that met the criteria, including 3,156 participants and 108 relevant outcomes. The overall mean effect size was statistically significant and in the small to medium range (Hedge’s g = 0.30, p < .001). Significant moderators of effectiveness included higher effect sizes for dissertations compared to journal articles and more improvement reported for MBIs that incorporated home practice versus those that did not. The effect size did not differ significantly based on participant characteristics, intervention dosage, or outcome characteristics. Results suggested that MBIs are effective at improving EF skills in children from diverse populations.

The second chapter focused on the evaluation of Mini-Mind, a 12-session MBI created for preschoolers. The study used a randomized controlled design to investigate the effectiveness, acceptability, and feasibility of the implementation of Mini-Mind in a sample of 27 (intervention n = 12) preschoolers (3-5 years old). The evaluation included direct and indirect measures of EF skills. Additionally, parents, teachers, children, and facilitators provided feedback about the intervention. Overall, Mini-Mind was highly feasible and acceptable across stakeholders. Direct measures of EF did not indicate a significant difference between the intervention and control groups. Indirect measures of EF revealed non-significant, small to medium effects in favor of the intervention group in attention, working memory, inhibition, and shifting. Taken together, the intervention was highly acceptable and feasible, but studies with more participants are needed to better understand the effectiveness.

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