Mindful Coping Power Effects on Children's Autonomic Nervous System Functioning and Long-Term Behavioral Outcomes




Boxmeyer, Caroline L.
Stager, Catanya G.
Miller, Shari
Lochman, John E.
Romero, Devon E.
Powell, Nicole P.
Bui, Chuong
Qu, Lixin

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Mindful Coping Power (MCP) was developed to enhance the effects of the Coping Power (CP) preventive intervention on children's reactive aggression by integrating mindfulness training into CP. In prior pre–post analyses in a randomized trial of 102 children, MCP improved children's self-reported anger modulation, self-regulation, and embodied awareness relative to CP but had fewer comparative effects on parent- and teacher-reported observable behavioral outcomes, including reactive aggression. It was hypothesized that MCP-produced improvements in children's internal awareness and self-regulation, if maintained or strengthened over time with ongoing mindfulness practice, would yield improvements in children's observable prosocial and reactive aggressive behavior at later time points. To appraise this hypothesis, the current study examined teacher-reported child behavioral outcomes at a one-year follow-up. In the current subsample of 80 children with one-year follow-up data, MCP produced a significant improvement in children's social skills and a statistical trend for a reduction in reactive aggression compared with CP. Further, MCP produced improvements in children's autonomic nervous system functioning compared with CP from pre- to post-intervention, with a significant effect on children's skin conductance reactivity during an arousal task. Mediation analyses found that MCP-produced improvements in inhibitory control at post-intervention mediated program effects on reactive aggression at the one-year follow-up. Within-person analyses with the full sample (MCP and CP) found that improvements in respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity were associated with improvements in reactive aggression at the one-year follow-up. Together, these findings indicate that MCP is an important new preventive tool to improve embodied awareness, self-regulation, stress physiology, and observable long-term behavioral outcomes in at-risk youth. Further, children's inhibitory control and autonomic nervous system functioning emerged as key targets for preventive intervention.



Mindful Coping Power, reactive aggression, autonomic nervous system, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, skin conductance, polyvagal theory, mindfulness, inhibitory control, self-regulation, prevention


Journal of Clinical Medicine 12 (11): 3621 (2023)