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Bidirectional Longitudinal Relationship Between Chinese Children’s Paternal and Maternal Attachment and Self-Compassion



Abundant evidence has demonstrated that self-compassion is beneficial in alleviating psychological problems and improving mental health. However, little attention has been paid to the developmental mechanism of self-compassion in childhood. Few studies have examined the influence of paternal/maternal attachment on children’s self-compassion in childhood. Moreover, it remains unclear whether children’s self-compassion affects their interactions with their parents. The purpose of this study is to explore the bidirectional relationship between paternal/maternal attachment and children’s self-compassion.


Participants (N = 990; 64.6% male, Mage = 9.58, SDage = 0.70) were recruited from three primary schools in Anhui Province, China. Participants completed three self-report questionnaires assessing children’s self-compassion, paternal attachment, and maternal attachment at two times (approximately spaced 1 year between two time points).


The results displayed that paternal attachment significantly only predicted boys’ self-compassion. In contrast, the effects of maternal attachment on children’s self-compassion appeared to be of negligible magnitude among both boys and girls. In addition, we also found that self-compassion positively predicted paternal attachment and maternal attachment among both boys and girls.


Our findings highlight that paternal attachment promotes the development of self-compassion in Chinese children (especially boys), and that children’s self-compassion promotes paternal and maternal attachment. Future interventions should focus on the important role of paternal attachment in the development of self-compassion in children (especially boys). In addition, future research could consider interventions based on children’s self-compassion to improve the quality of parent–child interactions.

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All data are available at the Open Science Framework.


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The study described in this report was funded by the National Social Science Foundation of China [grant number BBA220198]. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Social Science Foundation of China. We are appreciative of the parents, children, and teachers who participated in our study and the people who assisted in data collection.

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Authors and Affiliations



DW and RX: designed and executed the study, assisted with the data analyses, and wrote the paper. WD: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. WW and ZY: analyzed the data and wrote part of the results. XL and WL: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. Ruibo Xie and Die Wang contributed equally to this study and share first authorship.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Die Wang or Wan Ding.

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Ethical approval

All materials and procedures in the present study were approved by the Institute Review Board (IRB) of the Zhejiang Normal University.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Xie, R., Wang, D., Wu, W. et al. Bidirectional Longitudinal Relationship Between Chinese Children’s Paternal and Maternal Attachment and Self-Compassion. Mindfulness 13, 2857–2867 (2022).

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  • Maternal attachment
  • Paternal attachment
  • Self-compassion
  • Chinese children