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Linking Mothers’ Self-Compassion and Parenting Feelings to Their Child’s Behavior Problems



This study attempted to deepen the understanding of the nature of the associations between parents’ self-compassion and specific parenting feelings, and how they both relate to behavior difficulties in their children. A tentative theoretically constructed pathway model was examined, leading from mothers, through their parenting feelings, to the child’s externalizing and internalizing behavior difficulties. An alternative model was also checked examining the role of self-compassion as a mediator of the association between parenting feelings and children’s behavior difficulties.


Participants included 453 Israeli mothers and their children, aged 8–17 years. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing self-compassion, parenting feelings, and their child’s behavior difficulties. The children completed self-reports on their behavior difficulties.


The data showed significant correlations, all at the 0.05 level, among mothers’ self-compassion, their parenting feelings, and their child’s externalizing and internalizing difficulties. The main structural equation model indicated a high level of fit with the empirical data; all fit indices exceeded the required threshold. Mothers’ self-compassion contributed to each of their parenting feeling. Happiness in parenting contributed significantly to lower ratings of externalizing and internalizing difficulties in the child; anxiety and sadness contributed significantly to higher reports of both internalizing and externalizing behavior difficulties; and feelings of anger contributed to higher ratings of externalizing difficulties. Mothers’ self-compassion did not mediate the association between mothers’ parenting feelings and their child’s behavior difficulties. It contributed significantly to their children’s behavior difficulties only through mothers’ parenting feelings.


Maternal parenting feelings have important implications for their child’s psychological difficulties. Self-compassion contributes to parenting feelings. Future research is needed to clarify this contribution.

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All data are available at the Open Science Framework (


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We thank the IDC students who participated in data collection and the participating mothers and children. We appreciate the statistical support of Dr. Amir Hefetz and Dr. Gabriel Liberman from Data-Graph at

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Authors and Affiliations



EC: designed and supervised the execution of the study, participated in data analyses, and wrote the paper. ERN: participated in data collection, data organization and analyses, and collaborated in writing the results and editing the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Esther Cohen.

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Ethics Approval

The procedures of this study were approved by the Institutional Review Board of Reichman University in Israel and were performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants involved in this study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Cohen, E., Naaman, E.R. Linking Mothers’ Self-Compassion and Parenting Feelings to Their Child’s Behavior Problems. Mindfulness 14, 79–90 (2023).

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  • Self-compassion
  • Parenting feelings
  • Externalizing behavior difficulties
  • Internalizing behavior difficulties
  • Child behavior problems