Understanding Children's Self-Regulation: An Analysis of Measurement and Change in the Context of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention
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Self-regulation in children has been found to be prognostic of both normative and problematic social and emotional development in later childhood and adolescence. In particular, regulation of attention is deemed central to the ability to self-regulate other behaviors. Attention regulation is commonly measured by using rating scales and by obtaining children's behavioral and neurophysiological responses during laboratory tasks. Despite the widespread use of a variety of measurement strategies, the convergent validity of diverse measurements of attention regulation has not been systematically tested. This insufficiency is problematic for understanding individual differences in self-regulation and for evaluating interventions designed to improve attention regulation in children. Mindfulness-based interventions, an increasingly influential and powerful modality of psychosocial intervention, are hypothesized to improve attention regulation directly. Improvements in psychosocial adjustment following mindfulness-based intervention are hypothesized to be mediated through attention regulation. Nevertheless, research exploring the relation between mindfulness intervention and attention regulation is limited. This study explored the construct validity of attention regulation by (a) examining the measurement model for attention regulation that incorporates questionnaire ratings, behavioral data, and neurophysiological (electroencephalographic event-related potentials) measures, and (b) testing direct effects of mindfulness intervention on multiple measurements of attention regulation and indirect treatment effects on psychosocial outcomes with attention regulation as a mediator, using data collected from a randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness-based intervention with 47 children ages 9-12 years. Results confirmed that varying measurements of attention regulation were not empirically related. Results also supported previous findings that mindfulness-based interventions improved some indices of attention regulation in children. However, results did not support the hypothesis that attention regulation served as a mediator in mindfulness-based intervention treatment effects on psychosocial outcomes. Discussion suggests approaches to the measurement of attention regulation and new directions in mindfulness-based intervention research with youth.