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The Effects of a Stress Management Intervention in Elementary School Children

Bothe, Denise A. MD*; Grignon, Josephine B. MEd; Olness, Karen N. MD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics:
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000016
Brief Report
Abstract

Objective: This preliminary study tests the effectiveness of an elementary school-based stress management technique on anxiety symptoms and heart rate variability (HRV) in children.

Methods: In this controlled prospective longitudinal study, children in third-grade classroom participated in a teacher-led daily 10-minute stress management intervention for 4 months. The control class teacher read from a children's book for 10 minutes daily. A standardized anxiety scale and HRV (using computer biofeedback program) were measured before the 4-month intervention, immediately after, and 1 year later.

Results: The intervention class showed significant improvement from baseline to the immediate postintervention period in total anxiety (N = 14, F = 12.95, p = .002), with 1-year follow-up scores maintaining improvement (N = 13, F = 5.88, p = .025). The intervention class had small improvement in HRV using the biofeedback program in the immediate postintervention period, with significant improvement at 1-year follow-up (N = 13, F = 10.61, p = .005). The control class showed no improvements. Qualitatively, children reported that the intervention was helpful during stressful times at school and at home, even after the study period.

Conclusion: An elementary school-based short daily stress management intervention can decrease symptoms of anxiety, and improve HRV, a measure of relaxation. Ultimately, these children found this skill continued to help them cope better with everyday stressors.

In Brief

This article has supplementary material on the web site: www.jdbp.org.

Author Information

*Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychology, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH;

Westlake, OH;

Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH.

Address for reprints: Denise A. Bothe, MD, Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychology, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland, OH 44106-6038; e-mail: denise.bothe@uhhospitals.org.

D. A. Bothe was supported for this research by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau Fellowship training grant in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (#T77MC00004).

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions this article on the journal’s Web site (www.jdbp.org).

Received June , 2013

Accepted October , 2013

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins