This experiment is part of the Adolescence Challenge Grant. Browse more projects

Moving to Mindful: Reducing Stress and Anxiety in High-Risk Teens using a Mindfulness Intervention

Raised of $4,350 Goal
Funded on 12/14/16
Successfully Funded
  • $4,877
  • 112%
  • Funded
    on 12/14/16

About This Project

Teens exposed to frequent intense parental conflict may develop self-regulatory problems. Past preventative efforts aimed to improve marital communication. We will conduct the first study intervening directly with adolescents from high-conflict homes. Mindfulness training will build teens’ regulatory capacity to reduce stress and anxiety. This approach may help the many youth at risk of life-long problems because they are not yet equipped to handle the stress of their high-conflict homes.

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What is the context of this research?

We're motivated to better understand how to support youth exposed to negative interparental conflict, which is prevalent. Decades of research indicate that these youth are likely to have problems with stress and anxiety, which are difficult to treat in adolescence, but have long-term negative effects. Most efforts to promote functioning for these youth have focused on improving marital interactions, but there is little evidence that this greatly benefits youth. A potentially powerful strategy that hasn't yet received empirical attention is intervening directly with these high-risk teens. Because increasing mindfulness decreases stress and improves regulation, we will use a mindfulness intervention developed for adolescents.

What is the significance of this project?

The completion of this project will advance knowledge in important ways. Is it feasible and beneficial to directly target youth from high-conflict homes? Does increasing mindfulness protect these youth from stress-regulatory problems? Theory would suggest yes, but no research has been conducted to provide sufficient evidence. Our study is the first test of these questions, and contributes valuable theoretical knowledge. Also, this project has the potential to advance the practice of how we support youth from high-conflict homes, who are at a high-risk for life-long problems. There are few existing programs to directly serve these teens. Our study will be the first step in developing and testing a program to support these high-risk and underserved adolescents.

What are the goals of the project?

30 teens will experience Learning to Breathe (L2B), a mindfulness intervention designed for, well-liked by, and effective for teens. Our team has mindfulness expertise and will receive training from L2B’s developer.

Testing points will be before, immediately after, and three months after L2B. Each time, we will assess stress and anxiety using standardized measures based on adolescent report and objective assessments of how adolescents experience and respond to stress. Our team has extensive experience with these methods. See the lab notes for how we measure stress regulation!

In the end, we will present and publish our results, which will also be a critical part of a grant application to support a larger trial of this program.


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There are three critical elements of the budget for this project. First, recruiting and retaining participants is critical for the success of this study. Some money will support the dedicated time of a research assistant to these time-consuming efforts.

Second, the mindfulness program is conducted in a group format, so it is necessary to have appropriate space and highly-qualified facilitators. By collaborating with the local Center for Family & Couple Therapy, we are able to access highly-trained clinical facilitators as well as ideal space for this program at a cost savings.

Finally, it is necessary to pay participants for their time. An effective strategy when a study involves multiple measurement periods is to increase payment over time. In keeping with typical rates for participating in studies like these, we will offer adolescents $10 for the baseline assessment, $20 for the post-program assessment, and $30 to come back for the final follow-up assessment.

Endorsed by

I am the director of the Center for Family and Couple Therapy, affiliated with the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at CSU. This proposed study aligns well with the goals of the CFCT, namely to support youth and their families, and work to improve their functioning. We are excited about the proposed project and are also well-equipped to provide support for its successful completion!
In my position as Research Associate Faculty at the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at the Pennsylvania State University, I have been able to pursue research and practice around mindfulness approaches for adolescents, and have created the Learning to BREATHE curriculum specifically for adolescents. This proposed study is innovative and will make important contributions to both science and practice related to mindfulness interventions in adolescence as a strategy to improve functioning in high-risk youth.

Meet the Team

Rachel Lucas-Thompson
Rachel Lucas-Thompson
Charlotte J McKernan
Charlotte J McKernan
J. Douglas Coatsworth
J. Douglas Coatsworth


Colorado State University
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Rachel Lucas-Thompson

I am an Assistant Professor of Human Development & Family Studies at Colorado State University. I am a developmental psychologist with primary interests in family processes, parenting, and child and adolescent development. My research program is broadly focused on exploring how and why family relationships matter. I am particularly intrigued by the mechanisms through which both positive and negative qualities of the marital relationship predict adolescent health. Much of my work has focused on the biological and physiological ways that our bodies respond to stressful experiences as a factor linking marital conflict exposure to negative physical and mental health outcomes for adolescents. You can visit my website at to learn more about me and see my CV.

Charlotte J McKernan

I am a doctoral student in Applied Developmental Science at Colorado State University. I am a therapist in training at the Center for Family and Couple Therapy and I am particularly interested in how our relationships effect the ways we respond to stressful experiences. My research is focused on the ways in which individuals react to stress and understanding how individual and environmental factors impact stress response. I am most interested in ways that we can strengthen physiological stress response in order to change the ways we interact with the people around us, especially our family members and loved ones.

J. Douglas Coatsworth

I am a professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University and the Director of the Colorado State University Prevention Research Center. I am trained as a Child Clinical Psychologist and my research is in the area of Prevention Science. My research has focused on developing and evaluating family-based interventions to promote adolescent competence and prevention problem behaviors. Most recently, I have adapted an evidence-based family-strengthening intervention by infusing mindfulness practices for parents and youth into the curriculum. My team is evaluating the results of that trial and exploring opportunities to further test its effectiveness.

Additional Information

We are happy to offer the following rewards to our backers! Contributions of any and every size are really appreciated, but below are rewards for different levels of contributions. Each level includes the rewards of the previous levels!

- $5 or more: have your name listed in the acknowledgments of presentations and paper resulting from this project!

-$25 or more: get a t-shirt with the study logo! If you don't need a t-shirt, you can also choose to donate the t-shirt to an adolescent participant in the study.

-$40 or more: get a t-shirt for you and to donate to an adolescent participant in the study!

-$50 or more: get access to our backers' FB page where we'll include regular mindfulness activities and exercises

-$100 or more: You'll be considered a sponsor of a teen for this project! At the end of the training period, you'll receive a thank you note from the teen you sponsored, who will describe what it was like to participate in the program.

-$200 or more (limited to 10 people): You can participate in the Learning to Breathe training (which requires attendance in Fort Collins, CO).

Project Backers

  • 61Backers
  • 112%Funded
  • $4,877Total Donations
  • $78.66Average Donation
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