Interventions involving kindness- and compassion-based meditation (KCBM) have been shown to have various benefits for adults, and there is growing interest in using KCBMs with children. This systematic review explores the effects of KCBM on wellbeing, prosociality, and cognitive functioning in children and adolescents.
Studies were eligible if they examined interventions that contained a proportion of KCBM above a set threshold, included child participants only, used any or no control group, and included at least one outcome measure related to wellbeing, prosociality, or cognitive functioning. Studies were assessed for quality using the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies, and findings were synthesised narratively.
A systematic literature search of 11 databases up to February 2020 identified 3,073 papers. Ten studies were eligible for inclusion in the review, including 807 children. There was evidence of improvements in wellbeing in 47% of wellbeing outcome measures (including stress, anxiety, depression, negative affect, markers of inflammation, mindfulness, and self-compassion). Prosociality and cognitive functioning (visual perception and motor accuracy) were examined in 1 study each, and there was evidence of improvements in both outcomes. Effect sizes ranged from small to large. There was some evidence that interventions were more effective with younger, non-clinical populations and where intervention teachers were experienced. Study quality was generally weak.
There was no strong evidence base for positive effects of KCBM with children. However, the findings of the review are encouraging given the early stage of development of the field, and further research is warranted. Recommendations for future research include more robust methodological design, improved reporting, and a focus on developmental mechanisms of change.
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