An exploration of psychological flexibility and self-compassion among parents of young infants

  • Una O'Boyle-Finnegan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctorate in Clinical Psychology


This research portfolio was submitted in part fulfilment for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The portfolio contains a systematic literature review and a large-scale research project, both prepared for submission to peer-reviewed journals.

Systematic review:
Title: A Meta Analytic Review of the Relationship Between Self- compassion and Depression in Mothers during the Perinatal Period
Description: A meta-analysis of 10 samples was carried out to estimate the average effect size for the association between self-compassion and depression in women in the perinatal period. Results showed an overall negative association between self-compassion and depression in perinatal women (r= -.58) Variance in scores was not accounted for by stage in perinatal period or type of sample. Results suggest that self-compassion may act as a buffer against symptoms of depression in pregnant and postpartum women. Future exploration of the effectiveness of compassion-focused interventions is warranted. Future longitudinal research with clinical populations is needed however to increase our understanding of the relationship between these variables.

Large scale research project:
Title: The Role of Psychological Flexibility and Self-compassion in Predicting Parental Distress and Adjustment in Parents of Preterm Infants
Description: A quantitative analysis of 215 participants using multiple hierarchical regressions revealed psychological flexibility and self-compassion as unique predictors of psychological distress in parents of preterm infants. Components of psychological flexibility were unique predictors of individual and relational adjustment while self-compassion was predictive of relational but not individual adjustment. The portion of variance accounted for by self-compassion after controlling for psychological flexibility was modest however. Components of psychological flexibility but not self-compassion retained their predictive value for individual and relational adjustment when controlling for psychological distress. This study provides preliminary evidence of the potential protective role of psychological flexibility and self-compassion in the development of psychological distress and adjustment difficulties in parents of preterm infants and provides support for future development of acceptance based interventions for this population.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2023.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorPauline Adair (Supervisor) & Christopher Graham (Supervisor)


  • Psychology
  • self-compassion
  • parents

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