The study’s sample population of 150 cancer family caregivers is similar to U.S. national samples on several criteria (National Alliance for Caregiving, 2009
). Namely, the study sample is predominantly comprised of married women employed outside the home.
Since national data indicate that women use mind-body practices, including meditation, at a higher rate than men (Barnes et al., 2008
), it was anticipated that women would present fewer barriers. Comparison of the DMPI total score means by gender shows no statistically significant differences. However, a visual comparison of individual items on the DMPI by gender shows considerable differences. These differences may be due solely to chance; however, the gender differences may have been obscured when only considering a total score. Items in the Pragmatic Concerns domain appear, in their entirety, as greater barriers to women than men. These results must be interpreted with caution until they are replicated with a larger sample.
It should be noted, overall, the domain Perceptions and Misconceptions has the highest frequency of barriers for both genders. This may indicate a prevailing lack of knowledge about meditation among the study sample. It appears that for meditation teachers or intervention researchers to overcome widespread fallacies and attract sizeable numbers of participants, recruitment procedures must describe the experience of meditation fully and clearly, in a way that is understandable to the target population.
The most parsimonious multiple linear regression model shows gender and Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Openness to New Experiences (inversely), and reactions to caregiving account for 32% of the variability in the DMPI score. It seems reasonable that the negative emotions associated with Neuroticism trait would contribute to an individual’s perception of many barriers to a new behavior such as meditation. Individuals with high Conscientiousness trait are motivated to adhere to rules and conventions (John et al., 2008
). Subsequently, without knowledge of meditation, a person with high Conscientiousness might perceive meditation as so unconventional as to present major barriers. It is possible that someone who is conscientious about his or her responsibilities as a caregiver will not want to deviate from an established pattern of activities by the addition of a new behavior. That said, some of the characteristics associated with the Conscientiousness trait, such as self-discipline and orderliness, would serve someone well who is embarking on a meditation practice. An individual who reports a high caregiver burden is likely to be overwhelmed at the prospect of adding something new to his or her daily activities, and therefore would perceive many barriers to meditation. It also seems likely that an individual high in the Openness to New Experiences trait characteristics would perceive few barriers to a new behavior and would likely welcome the opportunity to learn meditation.
The study is limited by the modest racial or ethnic variability represented among the study sample. Effort should be made to repeat the study with racial and ethnic groups who may have different barriers to meditation than the dominant population of cancer caregivers.
The study indicates there are barriers present for a sizeable percentage of both men and women of various ages. It is commonly understood by meditation teachers that many of the barriers queried on the DMPI can be modified effectively. For example, if members of a target population identify “I can’t sit still long enough to meditate” as a barrier, teachers or researchers can design recruitment materials that assure potential participants they can walk or lie down to meditate. If “There is no quiet place where I can meditate” is identified as a barrier, a teacher can describe the experience of meditating on ambient sound. Intervention studies are needed to determine if the barriers are indeed modifiable by these techniques.
Whether in a clinical or research setting, the DMPI may provide information to recruiters that will enable them to improve enrollment and minimize attrition. The DMPI can be used by researchers to understand (a) why some individuals choose to enroll and others do not; (b) why some participants respond to an intervention while others do not; and (c) how individuals with missing data (for instance, due to low attendance or dropouts) differ from those with complete data. Use of the DMPI, as described here, can be one step in a process to promote methodological rigor in meditation research and enhance participation in meditation interventions in the clinical setting.