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.