Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Effects of Mindfulness Training on Individuals Experiencing Post-Breakup Distress: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Ken Pargament (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Annette Mahoney (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Yiwei Chen (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Madeline Duntley (Committee Member)


Relationship breakups are a common part of most young adults' experience and frequently cause considerable emotional and psychological distress. The current study used a randomized, longitudinal approach to assess the effectiveness of mindfulness training, as compared to relaxation training and no-treatment control, for individuals dealing with the recent breakup of a romantic relationship. The purpose of the study was to examine the association between mindfulness, spirituality, attachment, and psychological symptoms. Potential moderating and mediating effects of spirituality and/or attachment were of particular interest.

Eighty seven participants took part in the full eight-week study. They completed assessment measures at pre, post, and follow-up time points. A series of mixed design repeated measures ANCOVAs, with religiousness entered as a covariate, assessed main and interaction effects of mindfulness training, spirituality, and attachment on outcomes. While mindfulness was not significantly more effective than relaxation and no-treatment, and hypotheses related to moderation were not supported, attachment style was found to be a predictor of several outcomes, including positive emotion and forgiveness. In addition, mediation analyses showed that spirituality mediated the relationship between baseline mindfulness and anger rumination, positive emotions, post-traumatic growth, and forgiveness, suggesting that the effects of mindfulness on psychological distress occur in part through changes in spirituality. Future exploration of the role of spirituality in mindfulness interventions seems warranted, particularly for individuals with lower baseline spirituality and/or higher baseline distress who appear most likely to benefit. In addition, future research on attachment might focus on the differential response to treatment of individuals with insecure attachment styles.