Date of Award

8-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Priscilla W. Blanton

Committee Members

Brian K. Barber, John Orme, Robert G. Wahler

Abstract

Adolescents today are confronted with the compounded stressors of life in our high-pressured society and the cognitive, physiological, and emotional changes that are characteristic of this stage of development. As a result, they often struggle with self-doubt, leading to depression, anxiety, and maladaptive trajectories. Mindfulness, or paying attention in the moment in an intentional and purposeful way, has been reported to have positive effects on emotional well-being in adults, and shows promise for similar results in recent research with children and adolescents.

Moreover, the mechanisms through which being mindful achieves positive outcomes has only recently been explored, and has not been investigated with adolescents. In this study, self-compassion, defined by the three components of self-kindness, feeling part of a common humanity, and maintaining perspective in challenging circumstances, was examined as a potential mediator in the relationship between mindfulness and dimensions of emotional well-being. Measures assessing mindfulness, self-compassion, positive and negative affect, life satisfaction, and perceived stress comprised an online survey that was administered to 67 adolescents in an urban high school. Path analysis was utilized to investigate relationships among the variables. An alternate model with self-compassion as the predictor and mindfulness as the mediator was examined as well.

Results indicated that self-compassion functioned as a mediator in the relationship between mindfulness and both negative affect and perceived stress, but not in the relationship between mindfulness and positive affect or life satisfaction. In the exploration of the alternate model, mindfulness mediated the relationship between self-compassion and negative affect, self-compassion and life satisfaction, and self-compassion and perceived stress, but not between self-compassion and positive affect. Additionally, gender was found to moderate the relationship between the variables. A theorized model was presented which depicts a reciprocal relationship between mindfulness and self-compassion and describes an iterative process that takes place between these two constructs, resulting in positive emotional well-being.

Implications for future research include a mindfulness intervention study in which constructs are measured at three separate time points, clarifying direction of effects. Behavioral outcomes can also be measured post-intervention. Moreover, the gender effect can be further investigated by measuring these constructs with different populations.

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