Mindfulness and its effect on externalizing and internalizing behaviors in elementary school children

Children experience several stressors in life, at both micro and macro levels, which lead to behavioral problems in school. Mindfulness is emerging as a promising approach to help students better manage these stressors. The purpose of this mixed method study was to examine the impact of an eight-week mindfulness-based classroom program on students' externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Data were collected from 67 students through quantitative pretest and posttest surveys and focus groups at program completion. Results showed that mindfulness and internalizing behaviors did not have a statistically significant change, however, the participants experienced a statistically significant change in externalizing behaviors from pretest to posttest. The qualitative data showed changes in mindfulness and internalizing and externalizing behaviors as a result of participation in the program. The study also found a significant negative correlation between mindfulness and externalizing and internalizing behaviors. This study recommends that schools make a serious commitment to integrating mindfulness, across the spectrum, for it to be truly effective. Social workers may utilize mindfulness in their own practice to impact externalizing and internalizing behaviors in children. Future research in this area may benefit by conducting a randomized controlled trial to help establish the effectiveness of the mindfulness training program with more rigor. Future research also can track students' mindfulness practices to assess the impact of amount of practice on their levels of mindfulness, externalizing behaviors, and internalizing behaviors.