Family Social Science Assistant Professor Tim Piehler’s project, “Mindfulness Training for Juvenile Diversion Youth,” has been awarded an Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) Collaborative Seed Grant for the 2017-2018 cycle.
The project was awarded $19,985 mico-trial grant to collaborate on an evidence-based intervention with Headway Emotional Health Services, a community mental health agency that provides pre-court juvenile diversion services for youth offenders.
These kinds of trials are an experimental design to determine the effectiveness of an intervention with the understanding that while it may not have the same effect as a full intervention, it will inform the creation of full-scale intervention program. Piehler’s collaboration with Headway will evaluate the ability of mindfulness-based skills training to impact self-control within an adolescent diversion population.
Previous trials of mindfulness training with adults provide preliminary evidence for positive effects on self-control. The proposed research will extend this work to adolescents at risk for the development of conduct disorder and associated criminality.
“Youth conduct problems, such as aggression, defiance, violence, and criminality, represent a major public health concern with substantial costs to individuals, their families, and larger society,” says Piehler. “When these behaviors escalate to the level of conduct disorder, they can be devastating not only to the youth and their families in the form of social and educational failure, but also have a far-reaching impact on mental health and education systems, juvenile justice, and social services.”
While Juvenile diversion programs serve as an important gateway in identifying youth at high risk for escalations in conduct problems, the vast majority of current diversion programming is not evidence-based, in part because there are few programs developed specifically for this population and setting.
The study will involve a randomized trial investigating an evidence-based mindfulness intervention, Learning to Breathe, (LTB) for juvenile diversion-referred youth to learn whether the intervention can help improve their self-control. The study builds upon an already active research partnership with Headway.
The study will provide critical pilot data for a federal grant submission funding a fully-powered randomized trial. The lack of available evidence-based programs for this unique population represents a substantial area of need for community-based agencies in Minnesota and nationally. With increased availability of such programming, agencies will be able to increase the effectiveness of their services and better divert youth towards prosocial pathways at this critical developmental juncture.