Debate: Innovations in mindfulness for young people need to take more account of their unique needs if they are to live up to their potential

Author: Leigh Burrows1
1 Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia.
Conference/Journal: Child Adolesc Ment Health
Date published: 2022 Oct 2
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/camh.12601. , Word Count: 315

While the current popularity of mindfulness suggests that it will foster various social-emotional, personal, and academic benefits, current claims for the benefits of mindfulness for children and young people is premature according to Butterfield, Roberts, Feltis, and Kocovski (2020) who argue that 'despite the media hype and the increase in peer-reviewed publications the evidence base for mindfulness programs for children is not robust' (p. 194). A recent report from a large scale mindfulness project conducted by a number of highly experienced mindfulness researchers and involving more than 28,000 young people outlines that: 'For the most part the young people did not engage with the mindfulness training' and 'our results suggested mindfulness training might work for some children and not for others, and under some conditions, but not others' ( The MYRIAD project carefully tested the effects of a brief mindfulness intervention for early teens and found it to have no impact on preventing mental health problems or promoting well-being. Researchers in this project found that since the young participants were generally not particularly engaged overall in mindfulness a more engaging accessible and effective format and teaching format and mode of delivery may have been needed. Myriad researchers included students' feedback comments: 'didn't find it useful'; found it 'boring'; had 'no choice'; 'couldn't do it; didn't do it'. More concerning is their finding of potentially harmful effects leading the researchers to state that: future research and innovations should carefully consider the unique needs and developmental stage of young people (Montero-Marin et al., 2022, p. 123). I argue in this short 'debate' piece that there is a pressing need for more nuanced, broad ranging and creative qualitative research that can help us understand young people's rich subjective experience of mindfulness, why they might not engage in mindfulness and how to better tailor it for their individual needs and contexts.

Keywords: Adolescence; behaviour therapy; child development; counselling.

PMID: 36183742 DOI: 10.1111/camh.12601