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Self-Compassion: a Protective Factor for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder



Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face many unique challenges and experience higher parenting stress than other parenting groups. These parents also experience internalised stigma by association with their ASD affected child, known as affiliate stigma. These factors predict greater psychological distress and subsequently decreased well-being for parents. Recent evidence has suggested that the psychological construct of self-compassion may act as a protective factor against stigma, as well as positively influencing the experiences of parents.


An online survey was conducted with parents of children with ASD (N = 237), administering standardised measures to investigate levels of stigma and self-compassion, as well as psychological outcomes.


Self-compassion was positively correlated with subjective well-being and negatively correlated with psychological distress and parenting stress. Hierarchical multiple regression controlled for background factors, known predictors (child symptom severity and social support), and various aspects of stigma. Self-compassion and affiliate stigma significantly added to explained variance as a predictor of well-being, psychological distress, and parenting stress.


Self-compassion was found to predict psychological well-being, lower distress, and lower parenting stress. If self-compassion is found to be causally related to these outcomes, interventions aimed at cultivating self-compassion and decreasing affiliate stigma may have benefits for parents of children with ASD.

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This research was conducted as part of Honours in Psychology within The University of Adelaide. No additional funding was received.

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Authors and Affiliations



ST designed and executed the study, performed the data analyses, and wrote the paper. MP collaborated with design and writing of the study, performed additional data analyses, and led revisions to the paper. RR collaborated with design and writing of the study and revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript before submission.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rachel M. Roberts.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Human Research Ethics Sub-Committee of the School of Psychology at The University of Adelaide and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Torbet, S., Proeve, M. & Roberts, R.M. Self-Compassion: a Protective Factor for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Mindfulness 10, 2492–2506 (2019).

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  • Self-compassion
  • Autism
  • Parenting stress
  • Stigma