A Dynamic Systems Approach to Understanding Mindfulness in Interpersonal Relationships

Amanda Skoranski, J. Douglas Coatsworth, Erika Lunkenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: Major components of mindfulness, such as the development of empathy and compassion and the sharing of experience between people, necessitate a consideration of interpersonal relationships. The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on interpersonal mindfulness to-date and present a new way to conceptualize and measure mindfulness as it is cultivated and developed in interpersonal relationships. Methods: We reviewed empirical literature on mindfulness in relationships and current conceptualizations and measures of mindfulness. Specifically, we focused attention on mindfulness in parenting and how cultivation of mindfulness impacts the parent–child interactions. Results: Empirical investigations of mindfulness have largely centered on the intrapersonal and have rarely involved both intra- and interpersonal components of human experience. Further, although mindfulness is thought to involve the moment-to-moment awareness of human experience as it unfolds over time, empirical studies rarely measure mindfulness as a dynamic construct. Conclusions: We suggest that dynamic systems theory can provide a useful framework in understanding how mindfulness both organizes and is organized by interpersonal interactions. We discuss several ways in which dynamic systems theory can inform the conceptualization of mindfulness as a process that takes place both within and between individuals. Finally, we present examples of how fine-grained and time-varying methods rooted in dynamic systems theory and currently utilized in human development research can be applied to understanding how mindfulness is manifested within close interpersonal relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2659-2672
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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