Erica Vanegas

Status:

Major: 
Psychology
Mentor: 
Dr. Amy Murrell
Research Topic: 
An Investigation of Play's Impact on Prosocial Behaviors and Acceptance
Abstract: 
Even in the best academic environments, issues like peer discord and academic stress among students is very prevalent and can potentially influence further complications in their education and school life (Fernandez-Martin et al, 2015). Therefore, the director and co-founder of a local charter school reached out to host an Acceptance and Commitment Training prevention group for the students in her school. Though it would have been preferable to include all of the students, there was scheduling conflicts that made it difficult to include the high school students. Therefore, 44 participants were left, each ranging from ages 3 to 12. The children were divided into small groups, which for the next 10 weeks, would be part of weekly one-hour sessions focusing on coping mechanisms and prosocial behaviors. In these sessions, through experiential exercises, use of worksheets, bibliotherapy, art, and group discussions, youth were encouraged to practice mindfulness and acceptance of difficult situations and feeling, explore their values, and commit prosocial behaviors in line with their school’s mission. ACT is an empirically based treatment for adults (Hayes, Masuda, Bissett, Luoma, & Guerrero, 2004) and is gaining support for its use with youth (Murrell, Coyne, & Wilson, 2004). This study is to explore the potential of ACT as prevention with the goal of children becoming more emotionally resilient in social interactions at their school and beyond.