Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Being Aware and Accepting: A One-Year Longitudinal Study into Adolescent Well-Being

As my work is with adults, I don't tend to read a lot of research on children and adolescents. However, this article came up on a listserv and sounded interesting. It's currently in press at the Journal of Adolescence and hasn't made print yet.  Dr. Joseph Ciarrochi and colleagues, mainly located in Australia, looked at how aspects of mindfulness--specifically the ability to observe one's experience and engage one's life with awareness--predicted adolescent well-being.

The researchers gave a battery of measures to adolescents across five Catholic high school in Australia in 10th grade and again in 11th grade. They were able to collect the second data set for 572 of the original 776 participants. Reasons students couldn't complete the second battery included absence, conflicting school activities, changing schools, and leaving school for technical training.

One thing that impressed me about this study is how precise the researchers were in selecting the constructs they wanted to measure. For example, they specifically selected items in the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure reflecting the mindfulness facets "observing" and "acting with awareness"; they left out questions related non-judgment of experience, explaining that they had a another measure of what the called emotional acceptance, which they noted overlapped with non-judgment. There are too many measures to go through one-by-one, but I recommend checking out the article if you're interested.

Engaging one's life with awareness, emotional acceptance, and acceptance of experiences were all related to well-being and a lower tendency to experience negative emotions. Additionally, the longitudinal aspect of the study allowed the researchers to suggest there may be a causal role between awareness and acceptance and well-being: greater awareness and acceptance preceded increases in well-being, and decreases in sadness, fear, and hostility. However, because the study is not experimental, we can't say for certain there is a causal relationship.

The results suggest that teenagers may benefit from interventions that promote awareness and acceptance of internal (e.g., thoughts, emotions) and external experiences. As the researchers suggest, a longitudinal study with a mindfulness and acceptance-based intervention for adolescents would be a really interesting next step. It would great to see a study that shows that adolescents respond to an intervention that increases awareness and acceptance, and that these increases lead to greater well-being over time. Hopefully, this study provides some momentum towards that aim.

To download a PDF of the full article, click here. For a selection of other downloadable articles by Dr. Ciarrochi, click here.

For the full citation:

Ciarrochi, J., Kashdan, T. B., Leeson, P., Heaven, P., & Jordan, C. (2010). On being aware and accepting: A one-year longitudinal study into adolescent well-being. Journal of Adolescence.

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