Peer relationships offer the primary context for learning social norms and social skills. During peer interactions, children acquire skills and experiences that affect their social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. On the contrary, childhood peer problems predict various future negative outcomes, including school problems, delinquency, substance abuse, and emotional problems.
While the application of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) with children and adolescents has increased over the last two decades, the effects of mindfulness on peer relationships is a newly evolving field. However, preliminary research results are promising. Empirical evidence among children and adolescents suggests that the level of mindfulness is positively associated with improved peer relationships (e.g., peer acceptance and relationship quality), and negatively associated with problematic peer relationships (e.g., peer victimization and bullying).
However, there is a lack of evidence synthesis of the effectiveness of MBIs among children with a special focus on peer-relationship outcomes. This review critically examined and synthesized the impact of MBIs on children’s peer relationships.
Studies will be included that: (1) provided MBIs to children or adolescents (aged 18 years and younger); (2) employed a randomized controlled trial, quasi‐experimental design, single‐group pre‐post test design; (3) measured an aspect of peer relationships; (4) were published in English or Chinese.
Search and selection
Studies were identified through database searching up to December 2020, including: Applied Social Sciences Index & Abstracts, APA PsycArticles, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, ERIC, Family & Society Studies Worldwide, MEDLINE, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses databases, PsycINFO, PubMed, Social Work Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, Web of Science, and Scopus. Paired reviewers independently screened titles, abstracts and full texts of articles according to the inclusion criteria.
Data extraction and data analysis
Data from the selected studies extracted by two reviewers using a standard data coding scheme, including: study design, intervention characteristics, participant characteristics, outcome measures and effect estimates. Statistical analysis was performed using Comprehensive Meta-Analysis. Means, standard deviations, and sample size were used to pool the standardized mean difference (Hedges' g) effect size.
A total of 1784 potentially eligible studies were identified and 49 articles were deemed suitable for full-text analysis. Nine articles and two theses ultimately judged eligible for inclusion and reporting data for 1016 participants.
Results of the meta-analysis indicated that MBIs showed positive but non-significant effects on children's peer relationships (Hedges' g =0.348, 95% CI [-0.051, 0.746], p=0.88). There was significant heterogeneity across the studies. The included studies were often small. A wide variety of programs were evaluated, and various peer relationship outcomes were measured.
Due to the small number of included studies, the breadth of mindfulness intervention and outcome measures used, it is hard to draw solid conclusions about the effectiveness of MBIs on children’s peer relationships. To our knowledge, this is the first meta-analysis that specifically examines the impact of MBIs on peer relationships among children and adolescents. The evidence from this meta-analysis encourages additional research to further identify the effectiveness of MBIs across a broad range of peer relationship outcomes among children and adolescents.