Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Internet-Based Mindfulness Meditation and Self-Regulation: A Randomized Trial with Juvenile Justice Involved Youth

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Internet-Based Mindfulness Meditation and Self-Regulation: A Randomized Trial with Juvenile Justice Involved Youth

Article excerpt

Introduction

Youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system are disproportionately exposed to stressors outside of custody known to increase the risk for physical violence, delinquency, and selfinjurious behaviors (Duke, Pettingeil, McMorris, & Borowsky, 2010). Such stressors include parental incarceration (Phillips, Burns, Wagner, Kramer, & Robbins, 2002; Simons, Simons, Chen, Brody, & Lin, 2007), violent victimization and exposure to violence (Hawkins et al., 2000), as well as poverty and family disruption (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). These stressors, which are enduring factors in the lives of incarcerated youth prior to and after incarceration, are considered what the Centers for Disease Control has termed Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).1 ACEs have been associated with increased risk for depression, substance use disorders, personality disorders, conduct disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety (Adams, 2010). Long-term outcomes associated with ACEs include poor anger control, high perceived levels of stress, relationship problems, risk of perpetrating or being a victim of domestic violence (Larkin, Shields, & Anda, 2012), delinquency, and violence perpetration (Duke et al., 2010). Although an estimated 34% of youth in the United States experience some type of ACE, it is an experience shared by 75% to 93% of youth entering the juvenile justice system (Adams, 2010).

ACEs have also been implicated as barriers to the healthy development of self-regulation (Allen, 2011; Hein, Cohen, & Campbell, 2005), a critical developmental process of the adolescent period and a skill whose maturation is associated with the reduction of normative risk-taking (Eshel, Nelson, Blair, Pine, & Ernst, 2007; Steinberg, 2008) and the increase in cognitive control of behavior in emotionally charged situations (Luna, Padmanabhan, & O'Hearn, 2010; Nelson, Leibenluft, McClure, & Pine, 2005). Incarcerated youth are thus a population at risk for poor social and developmental outcomes due to their disproportionate exposure to circumstances that not only act as barriers to healthy development, but also contribute to and exacerbate the high rate of emotional problems and recidivism found in this population. If the juvenile justice system is to successfully reduce recidivism among incarcerated youth, facility programming must support the healthy development of self-regulation while youth are in custody and find ways to maintain that support when youth are again faced with the traumas endemic to their lives outside of custody.

Background and Significance

An estimated 130,000 youth are incarcerated in juvenile justice facilities in the United States (Puzzanchera, Adams, & Sickmund, 2010). It is well documented that these youth experience disproportionately high rates of emotional, educational, and substance use problems. For instance, 90% of youth leaving state custody in 2003 reported experiencing an emotional problem such as anger management difficulties (81%), anxiety (61%), depression (59%), substance abuse (68%), suicidal ideation (27%) or suicide attempts (21%), with a vast majority (71%) reporting multiple problems (Sedlak & McPherson, 2010; Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). In addition, 22% of incarcerated youth have more recently reported at least one past suicide attempt, four times the national average, as well as high rates of substance use, with 84% (vs. 30% in the general population) reporting marijuana use, 59% reporting being high or drunk the week prior to their arrest, and 68% reporting problems and blackouts stemming from their substance use (Sickmund, 2010).

Incarcerated Youth as an Adolescent Population

Although incarcerated youth are a special population given their disproportionate exposure to individual, family, and community adversity, they are also, by definition, a group in the midst of a critical developmental period. Central to this period is the neural development of key brain systems involved in self-regulation, which continues through the teens and into the early 20s. …

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