Social and emotional skills training is important for adolescents, whose stress vulnerability may be exacerbated during academic and social transitions. The present study investigated whether a mindfulness curriculum was an effective school-based universal SEL program when conducted in regular classrooms.
In this controlled trial, we recruited from seventh-grade classrooms in a lowest academic tier Hong Kong public school. One hundred fifteen youth with a mean age of 12.4 years were randomized by class to an adapted version of a mindfulness-based SEL program, Learning to BREATHE (L2B; N = 53), consisting of six 70-min sessions, or instruction as usual (IAU; N = 62) during their religion/social studies class.
Pre- to posttest change scores in complete and imputed datasets revealed significant between-group differences favoring the L2B group with (1) medium effect sizes for the executive functioning components of emotional control and self-monitoring; and a small effect size for working memory; (2) a small effect size for the internalizing problem component of anxiety/depression; and (3) a small effect size for the rumination component of brooding. There was a pattern of improvement in the L2B group and deterioration in the IAU group on emotional control, working memory, self-monitoring and anxiety/depression, and more of an increase in brooding among IAU than among L2B participants.
The intervention served a primarily preventive function during this year of academic transition, promoting resilience among students who learned mindfulness skills. The findings lend support for the benefits of mindfulness-based training as a multitier model for intervention in educational settings.