Researchers to study mindfulness and teens in high-conflict homes

Colorado State University is launching an innovative study to help adolescents in high-conflict homes — using mindfulness techniques.

Research has shown that teens exposed to frequent and hostile interactions between their parents often experience anxiety, depression and difficulties with managing other stresses in their lives. Usually, marital counseling is used to reduce the conflict itself, but there is limited evidence that such an approach helps the teens.

moving2mindfulnessResearchers in CSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies want to focus on other ways to help the teens in high-conflict homes. They plan to find out whether a mindfulness intervention developed for adolescents helps local teens learn how to reduce stress and anxiety.

Assistant Professor Rachel Lucas-Thompson is the principal investigator on the pilot project, titled “Moving to Mindful: Reducing Stress and Anxiety in High-Risk Teens Using a Mindfulness Intervention.”

She described mindfulness as “paying attention to what is happening right now, in a purposeful and non-judgmental way.” In other words, it’s about living in the present, not ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. Examples of exercises used to help teens develop mindfulness include meditation, taking time to identify different tastes in food, and focusing on one’s breathing.

Lucas-Thompson and her colleagues plan to employ “Learning to Breathe,” an intervention developed for adolescents by Patricia Broderick at Pennsylvania State University. Joined by co-investigator Doug Coatsworth, director of CSU’s Prevention Research Center, and doctoral student Charlotte McKernan, Lucas-Thompson plans to recruit 30 teens from northern Colorado to participate in the study next summer. She said some of the participants, who will be compensated for their involvement, will be referred from CSU’s Center for Family and Couple Therapy and Campus Connections program.


The teens’ stress and anxiety levels will be assessed before and after the intervention in an effort to measure any improvements. The facilitators of the study will be trained by Broderick, thanks to funding from the Prevention Research Center. Lucas-Thompson hopes this pilot will lead to a larger study of the intervention.

To support the initial study, the CSU team has launched a crowdfunding effort that ends Dec. 14 at The researchers are at about 98 percent of their $4,350 goal. If they are able to reach the goal, then they will carry out the study this spring. Donations beyond their minimum goal of $4,350 are still important; additional funds mean the researchers can incorporate more teens into the study, gather assessments from parents as well as teens (increasing the quality of the data collected), and/or have more money to support recruiting teens into the study and following up to prevent drop-out.

The study is competing against similar studies on The team with the most number of contributions receives an extra $500; two runner-ups get $200 each. “So even really small gifts can help us,” Lucas-Thompson said.

The first 10 donors who contribute more than $200 will be able to participate in the training themselves. For more information, or to make a donation, visit

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.