The effects of a mindfulness-based intervention for first-graders’ executive function skills

Adam Koncz, Zsolt Demetrovics, Zsofia K. Takacs

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background and objectives: Mindfulness-based intervention has been shown to improve children’s executive functions (Takacs & Kassai, 2019). Additionally, these programs have positive effects on children’s empathy and compassion (Cheang et al., 2019). One possible mechanism for such effects is meditative interventions reducing participants’ stress levels (Pascoe et al., 2017), especially for participants who are at a risk for elevated cortisol levels (Koncz et al., 2020). School entry is a stressful life event that puts children at such a risk (Groeneveld et al., 2013).
The aim of the present study was to assess whether a six-session story-based mindfulness-based intervention (i) can be effective in improving first-graders’ executive function skills, (iii), have a positive impact on children’s behaviour problems. And (ii) help to decrease first-graders’ morning cortisol levels after school entry.
Methods: In a randomized controlled design, the mindfulness intervention was compared to a passive control condition. First-graders were recruited from a primary school in Budapest, Hungary right after school entry in the fall. The intervention was a six-session long, story-based program with mindfulness, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation tasks and some psychoeducational blocks about stress. Intervention sessions were held by research assistants in the classroom and lasted about 45 minutes.
On the week before and after the intervention participants’ executive functions were assessed (Crosi block tapping task, Go/NoGo task, Hearts and Flowers task). Furthermore, morning cortisol levels were measured one week before, one week after and one month after the end of the program. Additionally, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire was filled in by parents of participants one week before and one month after the intervention.
Results: Based on preliminary results there was no effect of the intervention on participants’ cortisol levels. However, children’s shifting skills significantly improved in the intervention group. Girls’ working memory and prosocial behaviour were improved as a result of the intervention. Finally, it seems that the intervention was protective against developing emotional problems.
Discussion and conclusion: Mindfulness-based interventions seem to improve children’s working memory and shifting skills, and have positive effects on first-graders’ prosocial behaviour and emotional problems. Surprisingly, these effects cannot be explained by a reduction in stress levels.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2021
EventSRCD Biennial Meeting 2021 -
Duration: 7 Apr 20219 Apr 2021


ConferenceSRCD Biennial Meeting 2021
Internet address


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