Security Issues in Online Social Networks
Chapter Five: Discussion
This chapter presents an interpretation of the findings from this study. The principal aims of this study were to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and the effectiveness of an MBCT-C intervention that systematically teaches school-aged children stress-management skills and critical social-emotional competencies, such as enhanced self-awareness and self-regulation of emotions, increased adaptability to changing situations, initiative, self-motivation, and cultivation of empathy in a school setting (Meiklejohn et al., 2010;Thompson et al., 2008). The anticipated effects of the MBCT-C program were decreases in aggression and increases in peer relationships, compassion towards others, and mindfulness skills. The study’s strengths and limitations, theoretical implications, and implications for further research are discussed in the following sections.
The students’ attendance and recruitment rates were used to assess the program’s feasibility. Feasibility is an important determination as to the appropriateness of an intervention for future efficacy testing (Bowen et al., 2009). The school-based, 12-week Mindfulness Matters program was found to be feasible for the implementation with one group of elementary-aged children demonstrating adequate rates of attendance and ease of recruitment.
The recruitment rates for the current study supported the first research hypothesis, which addressed treatment feasibility. In this study, a total of 51 consent forms were returned, and 73% of the participants who returned their forms participated in the focus and intervention groups. Children were recruited from Grades 3 to 5 in two public elementary schools in the PUSD. In these two schools, over 75% of the student population was Latino or African American, and more than 60% was from low-income families. The received results have been analyzed and correlated with the results of Barnes, Bauza, and Treiber (2003) who examined the significance of reducing stress through the use of a transcendental meditation program on students’ negative school behavior (i.e., absenteeism, school rule infarction, and suspension days). The sholars found that requiring students to engage in 15-minute sessions of transcendental meditation at home could effectively reduce their absenteeism, school rule infraction, and number of suspension days caused by behavioral problems by a mean score of 6.4 (p <0.05), 0.1 (p <0.03), and 0.3 (p <0.04) respectively. Therefore, to maximize the benefits of the MBCT-C program, elementary school teachers should continuously find new ways to improve students’ attendance, including the recruitment and retention rates (Black et al., 2009).
Having a deep look at the empirical research findings and the ones which were got during the investigation, we have found that the results of the current study were similar to those research studies of Semple, Reid, and Miller (2005). A keen observation has helped the researcher to note that the students showed a considerable amount of enthusiasm about the abovementioned program. For this reason, the researchers did not have any difficulty trying to recruit participants from the target population. Out of the 51 research participants who received a consent form, only 3 refused to participate in this study; 11 prospective research participants did not give any response. Thus, the program had 37 research participants.
The dropout status was determined by attendance: those who attended fewer than half of treatment sessions were considered dropouts. Although the researcher did not have much difficulty trying to recruit potential research participants in this study, the dropout rate was higher than expected. Early in the program, three students who were participating in the intervention group had to withdraw. The first research respondent decided to withdraw from the study because he felt that he was too old for the group. Two other research participants decided to withdraw from the study because their parents changed their minds halfway through the program. However, the attendance rate of 9 out of 15, or 60%, provided some support for the treatment feasibility.
On a separate occasion, one group had to be eliminated from the study because the trained teacher had some health problems. As only 2 trained teachers were left to facilitate the program, the second group was completely eliminated. With respect to the program intervention, 58% of the students completed at least 75% of the intervention sessions. Most absences were the result of the student missing school on that day.
There are several explanations for the lower levels of the attendance, retention, and recruitment rates among the research participants who were invited to participate in this study. For instance, past research studies suggest that the rates of service usage are particularly low for children in the inner-city communities, and many are at risk of experiencing high levels of stress due to poverty (Buckner & Bassuk, 1997;Flisher et al., 1997). Furthermore, urban living has been associated with the lower ongoing involvement rates in intervention studies focused on children’s mental health. Considering the fact that most of the children in the current study were socially and economically disadvantaged, factors such as poor health conditions, personal or family problems, and socioeconomic problems could serve as barriers to perfect attendance and effective recruitment and retention rates when incorporating the MBCT-C intervention in the elementary students’ core curriculum.
Reduction of Externalizing Behaviors: Aggression
The second research hypothesis assumed that after the research participants completed the Mindfulness Matters curriculum, they would show a decrease in externalizing behaviors as determined by the difference between their pretest and posttest scores. Students were expected to show reductions in aggression and delinquent behavior as measured by parent reports on theChild Behavior Checklist for Ages 6 to 18 (Achenbach, 1991) and the child self-report on the Children’s Inventory of Anger (Nelson & Finch, 2000). The research findings presented in this study partially supported the idea that the MBCT-C program would significantly decrease the students’ externalizing behaviors (e.g. aggression and delinquent behavior).
Externalizing behaviors include not only “conduct problems” but also “undercontrolled behaviors” (Liu, 2004, p. 94). Several researchers, as analyzed in the literature review sections, have examined the significance of using mindfulness techniques in treating anxiety and other externalizing behaviors, such as aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity disorder (Kahat-Zinn et al., 1992; Segal, Semple et al., 2005; Williams & Teasdale, 2007). The construct of problems relevant to the externalizing behavior refers to a behavior problem grouping that are manifested in the outward behavior of children and reflect the negative acting on the external environment (Campbell et al., 2000; Eisenberg et al., 2001). Childhood juvenile delinquency and externalizing behavior are being increasingly viewed as the problem of public health (Campbell et al., 1995; Hann, 2002). According to Liu (2004), childhood aggression may be treated as a strong predictor of violence and crime (p. 95). Aggression is a type of conduct disorder that triggers a child to use either physical or verbal expression to cause harm or threaten another person (Liu, 2004). Hadley (2003) explained that male students often are more likely to use physical aggression than female students who tend to use “relational aggression,” which includes slander and excluding other people from a social group. Regardless of the type of aggression (e.g. proactive, reactive, direct, or indirect), the process of developing aggressive behavior is not acceptable. It is possible to make a distinct separation between aggressive and nonaggressive antisocial behavior forms. The subscale of socialized aggression includes cheating, lying, and stealing rather than any aggression items. The separation between aggressive and nonaggressive forms of antisocial behavior is questionable. Children who are high on aggression scales score high on non aggressive form measures of antisocial behavior.
It has been studied that there exist different ways of expressing aggression, i.e. verbal or physical behavior. According to Ferris and Grisso (1996), aggression may be destructive, self-protective, instrumental, and hostile (Feshbach, 1970). Instrumental aggression is purposeful and controlled aggression lacking in emotion. It is often used to achieve a desired goal or control over other people (Meloy, 1988; Atkins et al., 1991). Hostile aggression is considered to be a response to verbal or physical aggression that was initiated by other people. It is rather emotional and uncontrolled; usually, it causes pain or injury (Atkins & Stoff, 1993).
The etiology of aggression and delinquency has been strongly influenced by environmental and psychosocial factors. However, there is an idea that delinquent and aggressive behavior is learned (Huesmann, 1997; Shahinfar et al., 2001). Moise and Huesmann (1996) came to the conclusion that an association between watching violent TV programs in the first year of the study and aggression that is expressed 2 years later for girls aged 6 to 11 years. In addition, ethnic bias and conflicts also contribute to aggression at the elementary, middle, and high school levels (Feshbach & Feshbach, 1998).
Delinquent behavior includes antisocial acts, which are not limited to violence, but they may include robbery, theft, burglary, drug use, and vandalism (Liu, 2004). Based on the use of the Child Behavior Checklist for Children Ages 6 to 18 and the child self-report on the Children’s Inventory of Anger, the research findings presented in this study showed that the use of the Mindfulness Matters curriculum can decrease the incidence of externalizing behaviors, such as aggression and delinquent behavior. It has been also supported by several studies that the use of mindfulness-based practices with children have clearly shown that MBCT-C is effective in terms of increasing the students’ sense of self-awareness, particularly with regard to their personal thoughts, body sensations, or feelings caused by negative external experiences (Lee et al., 2008; Thompson et al., 2008).
The following study has shown that students who are victims of bullying are also at risk of developing internalizing behavior problems, which are not limited to being socially withdrawn, showing signs of being inhibited and anxious, or even exhibiting depressive behaviors. These facts were investigated and checked in the process of the research. Several studies have shown that internalizing behaviors are unhealthy in terms of children’s social relationships with their parents, siblings, friends, and even teachers (Campbell et al., 2000; Eisenberg et al., 2001).
In most cases, patients with severe depressive disorder can experience a depressive relapse even after receiving some treatment and medication (Teasdale et al., 2000). To prevent the incidence of depression relapse, Segal et al (2002) explained that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an effective treatment intervention that can be used to teach students how to control their emotions effectively. By doing so, the students can avoid or prevent relapses of depressive symptoms. Several studies have strongly suggested that allowing students to participate in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program helps the students protect themselves from a continuously repeating episode of depression (Teasdale et al., 2000; Lee et al., 2008).
According to Thompson and Gauntlett-Gilbert (2008), living in a mindless way allows individuals to remain unaware of both internal and external factors that can affect their actions significantly. Since the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps improve self-awareness, many past and current studies consider this therapeutic intervention an effective method for treating both internalizing behaviors (e.g., depression, social withdrawal, etc.) and externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity depression) (Black et al., 2009; Kahat-Zinn et al., 1992; Semple, Lee, et al., 2005; Teasdale et al., 2000; Thompson & Gauntlett-Gilbert, 2008). Therefore, students who participate in the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are able to control their mild state of depression. By learning how they can control the development of negative thoughts and actions, students who are accustomed to bullying others take control of their aggressive and delinquent behavior.
Behavioral problems usually arise among children in elementary schools. It was noted in the several studies that the act of combining cognitive therapy with an attention enhancement program, such as MBCT-C, is effective in terms of teaching bullies to change their attitude and behavior when managing negative thoughts and feelings, which can help them avoid acting aggressively and engaging in bullying behavior (Lee et al., 2008; Segal et al., 2002). By guiding children on how to control their negative thoughts and emotions effectively, MBCT-C can be used to enhance children’s emotional control and thought perspectives.
In general, children who are mindful can view a bullying situation from a new perspective that allows them able to control their own thoughts and actions. Since children who are mindful tend to consider alternative options when dealing with a bullying situation, a mindfulness program can help them reduce their risk of engaging themselves in a repeated bullying. Thus, children who are given the opportunity to participate in an MBCT-C program may experience a significant reduction in aggressive bullying behavior.
Increase in Positive Peer Interaction
The third research hypothesis assumes that students who were able to complete the program would show an increase in positive peer interactions as measured in the child self-report on the ChIA (Nelson & Finch, 2000) and on the compassion scale (Pommier & Neff, 2012). The research findings presented in this study support the idea that the use of the MBCT-C program will help increase students’ a positive peer interaction. Positive peer interactions are important as they lead to the positive emotional and social development in children. It has been proven that children who are able to interact with their peers successfully have stronger friendships, are more popular and take part in classroom activities more often than the children who have negative peer interactions (Bovey, & Strain, 2008).
In general, the process of establishing a positive peer intervention is an important component of “positive social and emotional development” amongst children (Kohler et al., 2001; Morris, 2002; Taylor et al., 2002). In most cases, children who are able to establish a strong social interaction are the ones who can create strong friendships with the people around them. Furthermore, establishing strong social relationships will help these children work in groups and easily resolve conflicts with other people through the use of effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills (DeGeorge, 1998; Morris, 2002). Research suggests that the use of positive social skills with peers lead to the development of acceptance, positive peer relationships, and friendships (Bovey & Strain, 2008).
According to Elksnin and Elksnin (1998), children with behavioral problems have more difficulty establishing and maintaining friendships. One of the main reasons why children with behavioral problems are unable to establish strong friendships is that most of them are not sensitive or are less empathetic about other people’s feelings (Lerner, 2000; Morris, 2002). In addition to showing unacceptable behaviors ,such as an inability to control themselves, high levels of anxiety, inattentiveness, and outbursts of aggressive behavior, students with poor social competency also have more difficulty when it comes to dealing with new situations (Morris, 2002). Therefore, most children would refuse to cooperate with children with serious behavioral problems. Although the majority of children develop positive social skills naturally, some of them cannot do it. Elksnin and Elksnin’s idea was also supported by Bovey and Strain (2008) who claimed that children, especially those who have some conduct problems, emotional disturbances and others, have difficulties in interacting with their peers. Thus, they are at risk for later social problems. In order to increase positive peer interaction among such children, it is advised to teach them appropriate social skills. Thus, to avoid the long-term consequences of poor social relations, elementary school teachers should address how they can deal with the students’ social problems effectively. Failure to do so could negatively affect students’ self-esteem, social and emotional development, learning attitude, and overall personal satisfaction (Morris, 2002). Eventually, undergoing a series of peer rejection can make students feel insecure about their own personality.
Students’ ability to control their negative effect is important in terms of developing positive peer interactions. The research findings presented in this study strongly suggested an increase in positive peer interaction after the students participate in the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. In addition to reducing the students’ state of absent-mindedness, increasing students’ ability to develop their mindfulness skills can effectively reverse their desire to be dissociated from a crowd (Baer et al., 2006). In fact, the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps students take account their own emotions, cognition, and somatic sensations (Duncan, Coatsworth, & Greenberg, 2009). Furthermore, having students practice meditation for at least 1 hour each day is effective in terms of reducing their symptoms of insecurity, anger, anxiety, obsessiveness, and psychotism (Grepmair et al., 2007). Each time when these students experience either a negative internal or external stimulus, they can become more observant in analyzing the stimulus before describing their responses using words. Therefore, the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can protect students from academic failure and prevent them from developing feelings of insecurity.
Establishing or maintaining peer relationships is highly dependent on the ability of the students to cope with stressful events. In this study, self-compassion is the ability to “treat themselves with kindness and concern when they experience negative events” (Allen & Leary, 2010). Compared to students who are not self-compassionate, students who are self-compassionate are more likely to use positive cognitive restructuring. As self-compassion can be used to help students clearly understand the different ways in which they can cope with stressful events (Allen & Leary, 2010), this study focused on the impact of the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on students’ self-compassion.
The main components of self-compassion are kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness (Neff, 2003; Allen & Leary, 2010). For instance, instead of displaying aggressive behavior toward others, students who are self-compassionate are more likely to show signs of caring, kindness, and compassion not only towards themselves but also towards other people (Neff, 2003). The concept of common humanity requires students to recognize and accept the idea that negative and painful experiences are part of the human experience. By learning that all people can be exposed to negative experiences (e.g., humiliation, confrontation, rejection, losses, etc.), students who are bullies or who have been bullied understand that they are not the only persons who are experiencing a hurtful event. This realization can decrease students’ feelings of isolation (Neff, 2003).
According to Baer et al (2006), the students’ ability to accurately describe the stimulus they receive from internal or external sources is highly connected to emotional intelligence. By improving their emotional awareness, students can differentiate their personal thoughts from their emotional observations or feelings. Students who receive mindfulness intervention are less likely to show signs of anger despite the absence of a valid reason. After learning how to control their own emotions effectively, these students are less likely to show retaliation after being bullied by others (Heppner & Kernis, 2007).
Mindfulness involves controlling a situation by not being ruled by emotions (Allen & Leary, 2010; Neff, 2003). It is one of the main components of self-compassion suggesting that students who are mindful of their own feelings can show compassion to others. Therefore, students with low levels of self-compassion are at risk of dwelling on their negative emotions. Without self-compassion, students can project maladaptive behaviors unconsciously (Adams & Leary, 2007; Leary et al., 2007). Self-compassion is considered to be one of the most common indices for measuring students’ psychological well-being. Several studies have strongly suggested that a high score in self-compassion can lead to a lower score in both depression and neuroticism and a higher score on overall life satisfaction, social relationships, and being a subjective person (Leary et al., 2007; Neely et al., 2009; Neff et al., 2007). Furthermore, Neff et al (2007) explained that students who are self-compassionate are less likely to experience high levels of anxiety after being bullied by other people. Other studies have suggested that self-compassion is highly associated with happiness, positive learning, emotional resilience, overall life satisfaction, optimism, personal responsibility, and ability to establish and maintain social relationships (Adams & Leary, 2007; Leary et al., 2007; Neff, 2003; Neff et al., 2005; Neff et al., 2007). Based on these research findings, high levels of self-compassion can serve as an effective coping mechanism for students.
The analysis of relevant literature has shown that few research studies have examined the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in improving self-compassion. For instance, Kuyken et al (2010) conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine the effects of the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with and without the use of anti-depressants. Based on the self-report questionnaire, Kuyken et al (2010) found that the group of patients who participated in the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy without anti-depressants showed better outcomes because of improvements in their mindfulness and self-compassion.
Increase in Mindfulness Skills
The fourth research hypothesis assumed that students who completed the program would show an increase in their mindfulness skills as measured by the child’s self-report on the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure (Greco et al., 2005) and the Emotion Regulation Checklist (Shields & Cicchetti, 1997). The research findings presented in this study partially supported the idea that using the MBCT-C program increases students’ mindfulness skills as there was no significant increase in the general mindfulness skills.
Mindfulness skills include observation, the ability to describe both internal and external stressors, and the ability to deal with stressors in a nonjudgmental way (Linehan, 1993; O'Donohue & Fisher, 2008, p. 328). For example, in order to develop students’ mindfulness skills, the research participants were taught to think rationally by balancing their reasonable and emotional mind, which helped them regulate effectively their emotions during a stressful event. Other equally important skills that students should learn include the “psychological and behavioral version of meditation skills” (e.g., emotional regulation skills, distress tolerance, and interpersonal skills) (Linehan, 1993, p. 144).
It has been researched that mindfulness is a kind of ‘inner compass’ or a ‘lifetime skill’ that is considered to be highly preventive. Understanding one’s own feelings and thoughts can be very helpful while addressing poor academic performance, juvenile delinquency, stress, mental disorders, etc. In addition, a calm, empathetic and focused mind helps children to increase their scholastic aptitude (Integrating Mindfulness into Education, 2010). In light of the importance of mindfulness skills to allowing students to deal effectively with bullying situations in school, it is clear that the process of strengthening the students’ cognitive, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal skills, can help students stay calm and control their emotions before reacting to internal and external stimuli. Eventually, the mindfulness skills that students learn from the mindfulness therapeutic intervention can help them solve problems and resolve effectively social conflicts on their own.
Rapgay and Bystrisky (2009) explained that mindfulness plays a significant role in students’ adaptive and maladaptive emotional regulation. In most cases, effective emotional regulation can lead to better health outcomes, improved social relationships with other people, and better academic performance (Campbell-Sills & Barlow, 2007). On the other hand, students’ inability to regulate their emotions is highly associated with the development of diseases and a long list of emotional disorders (Minnin et al., 2007; Nolen-Hoeksema, et al., 2008). Shapiro et al (2006) speak about three building blocks of mindfulness, such as attention, intention, and attitude. According to the scientists, attention is focused on internal and external experience. Intention is defined as a personal vision or goal. Attitude is suggested being an equanimity and acceptance. The act of being open, aware and mindful leads to the improvement of self-regulation and perceiving of the surrounding environment (p. 377).
In the study of psychology, individuals who have weak emotional regulation end up being easily frustrated, depressed, anxious or angry (Gunderson, 2012). In the worst case scenario, failure to regulate effectively the students’ emotional fluctuations can increase the students’ risks of committing suicide. Therefore, teaching the students on how they can regulate their emotions effectively is very important in terms of their social and emotional development and overall psychological well-being (Maus et al., 2007; Szasz et al., 2011) each time they are faced with depressing situations (O'Donohue & Fisher, 2008). Mindfulness is often treated as the focus of one’s attention on the accepting way the experience that is occurring in the present moment (Baer et al., 2004, p. 191). It is suggested that some psychosocial interventions can increase mindfulness.
Mindfulness pertains to the quality of consciousness such that the students’ attention and individual awareness are nonjudgmental and accepting (Bishops et al., 2004; Farb et al., 2012). In addition to being nonjudgmental and accepting, other positive mental states that are highly associated with mindfulness includes being non-striving (Van Dam et al., 2011); exhibiting prosocial behavior (Leary & Tate, 2007); being self-compassionate (Rosch, 2007); showing loving kindness, joy, and equanimity when dealing with other people (Van Dam et al., 2011); exhibiting increased in life satisfaction and improved resilience (Gilber, 2009); and, developing positive affect (Davidson et al., 2003; Fredrickson et al., 2008). The intense negative emotions can trigger the students’ aggressive and delinquent behavior. Considering the benefits of mindfulness intervention techniques, elementary teachers can adapt to the use of an MBCT-C program in order to help the students with aggressive and delinquent behavior to regulate their emotions effectively.
For example, it is possible to develop students’ mindfulness by teaching them how to develop a receptive state of mind. By allowing students to analyze their personal thoughts and feelings carefully, teachers can help students to observe openness while managing their negative emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness is one of the three components of self-compassion, which requires the students to learn how to balance their negative emotions in such a way that their negative feelings are neither exaggerated nor suppressed (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Van Dam et al., 2011).
Treatment Acceptability Component
Like this study, many studies have concluded that the use of the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy should be considered as an accepted psychological treatment for students who are showing either internalizing or externalizing behavior. Semple, Lee, et al (2005) conducted an open trial pilot study to test the use of a mindfulness training program on children between the ages of 7 to 8 during a 6-week trial. Based on the research findings, Semple, Lee, et al (2005) concluded that the use of a mindfulness training program within a school setting was highly acceptable. In a similar study, Semple et al. (2006) concluded “mindfulness in children is acceptable and feasible” (p. 164).
The studies of Semple et al (2005) and Semple et al (2006) suggest that children can benefit from mindfulness in many of the same ways that adults benefit (e.g., through a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression). For example, with a therapeutic mindfulness program, students can lessen their absent-mindedness by improving their ability to stay focused on reality (Chambers et al., 2008; Zylowska et al., 2008). Likewise, students can benefit from improving their ability to regulate and control their emotions (Broderick & Metz, 2009; Fisher, 2006; Meiklejohn et al., 2010; Thompson & Gauntlett-Gilbert, 2008). As mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can make students feel more calm and relaxed, it is acceptable in terms of controlling the students’ aggressive and delinquent behavior (Broderick & Metz, 2009; Meiklejohn et al., 2010).
Several studies have suggested that the use of a mindfulness intervention can help students improve not only their attitude and behavior but also their interpersonal relationships with other people, their overall school achievement, health condition, and stress level (Sibinga et al., 2008; Sibinga et al., 2011). Furthermore, this strategy is also effective in terms of improving students’ ADHD symptoms, depressive symptoms, level of anxiety, and overall working memory (Zylowska et al., 2008). Considering the benefits associated with the use of therapeutic mindfulness intervention, school teachers can “create a happier, healthier, and more focused learning environment” for students (Fisher, 2006, p. 146).
Based on the qualitative feedback from the children and the teacher trainers, the Mindfulness Matters program is acceptable in school settings for students between Grades 3 to 5. Although mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is applicable to the treatment of both adults and noon adults (Baer, 2003; Broderick & Metz, 2009; Thompson & Gauntlett-Gilbert, 2008; Meiklejohn et al., 2010; Semple, Lee et al., 2006; Semple, Reid et al., 2005; Szasz et al., 2011), it is necessary for school teachers to take note of students’ age and cognitive development. For example, due to children’s limited verbal fluency and the abstract reasoning and conceptualization abilities of elementary students between Grades 3 to 5, several studies have concluded that research participants can be motivated to participate if games, activities, and stories are integrated into the MBCT-C treatment protocols (Gaines, 1997; Stark et al., 1994). On the contrary, adult patients may find these strategies too childish.
One of the research participants decided to withdraw from the actual research study because he found the MBCT-C program too elementary. Therefore, a successful treatment depends on the ability of teachers to win the interest and attention of students. Keeping in mind that the cognitive, emotional, psychological, and motor development of children varies across all ages, school personnel must design mindful intervention programs based on the students’ age and educational level.
General Limitations of the Study
Sample size is an essential consideration when conducting a quantitative research study. The accuracy of the information presented is highly dependent on the number of research participants. When conducting a statistical analysis, the use of a larger sample size can help the researcher to obtain more-accurate research finding (Alston & Bowies, 2003). For this reason, one of the most obvious limitations of this study was the use of a small sample size. Alston and Bowies (2003) explained that when conducting a statistical analysis, the researcher should make use of a minimum of 30 samples to avoid distorting the research findings. Despite the relatively small sample size used in the following study, the research findings showed potential improvement in the symptoms measured.
Further, this study failed to make use of a control group. In most research studies, a control group is used to assess significant changes that could arise out of implementing an intervention. Due to the absence of a control group, the researcher could not compare the students’ mindfulness skills with a group of students who did not participate in the Mindfulness Matters program. Over the course of the 12-week program, the group became highly cohesive as the children developed meaningful relationships with the instructor and each other, which could have distorted the accuracy of the research findings. Therefore, to generate more-accurate research findings with regard to the effects of the use of mindfulness intervention on bullying and victimization in elementary schools, future studies should consider the use of a bigger sample size and a control group. This will help increase the accuracy of the research findings.
The socioeconomic status and the racial and ethnic background of the research participants were not considered in this pilot study. For this reason, the research findings presented in this study are limited in terms of the significance of the research participants’ decision to participate in or withdraw from the study. In the absence of such data, the research study presented in this study was limited in terms of analyzing the significance of a socioeconomic status and the racial and ethnic background on the children’s demonstration of aggressive or delinquent behavior.
According to Thompson and Gauntlett-Gilbert (2008), there is a great disparity in the research findings when examining the effectiveness of using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on adult and nonadult population. Semple, Lee, at al. (2006) highlighted the differences between the attention span, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal skills of the adult and nonadult populations. Because the research findings presented in this study analyzed the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on students aged 8 to 12 who are enrolled in Grades 3 to 5, the research method used in this study may not necessarily be applicable to students more than 12 years of age.
Program Modification for Future Research
Mindfulness Matters is a continually evolving program. To increase the effectiveness of a mindfulness approach when dealing with elementary school bullies, feedback from research participants, parents and teachers should be taken into consideration. This will help school faculty members develop new ways to modify and improve the MBCT-C program.
Greater Family Involvement
Within and outside the school premises, family involvement is a key to a child’s successful learning. Although family involvement plays an essential role in the emotional, social, and cognitive development of children, not all parents have been very keen in supporting their child’s development in school. For this reason, the proposed program modification for future research should find new ways in which faculty members can encourage parents to join and support the MBCT-C program.
Psychologists play a significant role in analyzing children’s behavior in school. As not all parents have a background in psychology, future research should seek to identify and discuss useful strategies for addressing parents’ knowledge and skills related to monitoring signs that their child is experiencing stressful experiences in or out of school. Teachers are not constantly available to every student at school. Therefore, in addition to educating parents on how to monitor accurately signs that their child is developing socially unacceptable behavior or is being bullied, future research on MBCT-C program modification should include teaching parents how to be involved in managing their child’s emotional distress. By encouraging the parents to play an active role in their child’s life, faculty members can increase the success rate of implementing and incorporating the MBCT-C program in the curriculum.
Furthermore, future research should evaluate and discuss the benefits of family involvement in a child’s social and emotional development, learning, social connectedness, communication skills, and so on. One of the reasons that some of the research participants withdrew from the study was their social status in life. For example, to support the financial needs of their family, some parents must work two jobs. Some parents may have encountered health problems during the period when the MBCT-C program was implemented. Instead of allowing their children to participate in the MBCT-C program, some parents may have instructed their child to return home after school. It is also possible that parents who belong to low-income families do not fully understand the purpose of the MBCT-C program. For this reason, future research should address ways that faculty members could encourage greater family involvement in support of the MBCT-C program, particularly among low-income families.
Increase in Teachers’ Involvement
Many past and current studies on mindfulness program have focused on examining the programs’ effectiveness when it comes to increasing the ability of students to show prosocial behavior (Leary & Tate, 2007); be self-compassionate (Rosch, 2007); show loving kindness, joy, and equanimity when dealing with other people (Van Dam et al., 2011); exhibit increased life satisfaction and improved resilience (Gilbert, 2009); and develop positive affect (Davidson et al., 2003; Fredrickson et al., 2008). Other studies have focused on analyzing how the use of the MBCT-C program can help children convert their negative behavior into positive one (Lee et al., 2008; Thompson & Gauntlett-Gilbert, 2008). However, none of these studies tackled the issue of effectively increasing teachers’ involvement in the MBCT-C program.
Within the school setting, the active involvement of teachers is a key to a successful MBCT-C program. Therefore, many studies have analyzed the benefits of MBCT-C on children’s psychological, cognitive, social, and emotional development (Barnes et al., 2003; Chambers et al., 2008; Grepmair et al., 2007; Heppner & Kernis, 2007; Kuyken et al., 2010). Despite the important role of teachers in incorporating the MBCT-C program into the core curriculum, this study did not tackle the importance of teachers’ involvement.
Further, despite the continuously increasing importance of the MBCT-C program for elementary schools, not all teachers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to teach mindfulness to students. For this reason, future research on modification to the program should address the proper way to train elementary teachers to design and develop an effective mindfulness program based on students’ age, and cognitive, emotional, social, and psychological development. Discussing the importance of teachers’ involvement in the development and implementation of the MBCT-C program in the future research studies will assist elementary school teachers in learning how to modify and change students’ aggressive and maladaptive behavior on and outside the school premises.