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Executive Function and Education

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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00208

Mindfulness Plus Reflection Training: Effects on Executive Function in Early Childhood

  • 1Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, United States

Executive function (EF) skills are essential for academic achievement, and poverty-related stress interferes with their development. This pre-test, post-test, follow-up randomized-control trial assessed the impact of an intervention targeting reflection and stress reduction on children’s EF skills. Preschool children (N = 218) from schools serving low-income families in two U.S. cities were randomly assigned to one of 3 options delivered in 30 small-group sessions over 6 weeks: Mindfulness + Reflection training; Literacy training; or Business as Usual (BAU). Sessions were conducted by local teachers trained in a literacy curriculum or Mindfulness + Reflection intervention, which involved calming activities and games that provided opportunities to practice reflection in the context of goal-directed problem solving. EF improved in all groups, but planned contrasts indicated that the Mindfulness + Reflection group significantly outperformed the BAU group at Follow-up (4 weeks post-test). No differences in EF were observed between the BAU and Literacy training groups. Results suggest that a brief, small-group, school-based intervention teaching mindfulness and reflection did not improve EF skills more than literacy training but is promising compared to BAU for improving EF in low-income preschool children several weeks following the intervention.

Keywords: Executive Function, Reflection, mindfulness training, Preschool children, early education

Received: 24 Oct 2017; Accepted: 07 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Mariëtte Huizinga, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands

Reviewed by:

Anna Ridderinkhof, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, University of British Columbia, Canada  

Copyright: © 2018 Zelazo, Carlson, Masten and Forston. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Philip D. Zelazo, University of Minnesota, Institute of Child Development, 51 East River Parkway, Minneapolis, 55455, MN, United States, zelazo@umn.edu