Father-child attachment during the first five years of life plays a vital role in child health and wellbeing but remains an under-researched area. Recently, self-compassion has emerged as a mechanism through which parent–child attachment may be optimized via its capacity to promote parental mental health and wellbeing, yet little is known about self-compassion among fathers specifically. This study examined the association between self-compassion, negative emotional symptoms, parenting stress, and parent self-efficacy as predictors of paternal attachment.
One hundred and seventy-five fathers of children < 5 years participated in an online survey on parent–child relationships.
A regression-based approach revealed that self-compassion, negative emotional symptoms, parenting stress, and parent self-efficacy accounted for 47% of the variance in paternal attachment. Further, there was an indirect effect of self-compassion on paternal attachment via parenting stress. Partial indirect associations between self-compassion and parenting stress via negative emotional symptoms, parenting stress, and paternal attachment via parental self-efficacy were also displayed. Higher levels of self-compassion were associated with reduced negative emotional symptoms, parenting stress, and improved parent self-efficacy, contributing to a higher quality of paternal attachment.
Though preliminary, our findings are consistent with a broader body of research supporting the utility of self-compassion as a modifiable skill that can improve mental health and wellbeing. Self-compassion may improve the quality of the attachment relationship between fathers and their young children. These preliminary cross-sectional findings suggest that longitudinal and experimental studies involving the investigation of the long-term benefits of self-compassion and associated interventions are warranted.
This study is not pre-registered.