Experiences and perspectives of self-compassion from young adult children of parents with mental illness

Addy J. Dunkley-Smith, Andrea E. Reupert, Mathew Ling, Jade A. Sheen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Introduction: In adolescents and young adults, self-compassion has been positively associated with wellbeing and negatively associated with psychological distress. One population of youth who may draw particular benefit from self-compassion are those who have parents with mental illness. This qualitative study explored the perspectives and experiences of self-compassion among a group of young adult children of parents with mental illness. Methods: A purposive sample of ten Australian emerging adults aged 18–25 years (3 men, 6 women and 1 non-binary person) participated in individual semi-structured telephone interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to examine and interpret participants’ experiences and perspectives of self-compassion. Results: Participants described self-compassion as personally relevant and beneficial, although difficult to engage in. Some participants had learnt about, and actively practiced self-compassion, and offered advice for others. Conversely, others described self-compassion as difficult to practice and outlined barriers to self-compassion, from society and family life. Although participants identified common negative social conceptions of self-compassion, they articulated how self-compassion could be valuable for those who have parents with mental illness. Conclusions: Results indicate the perceived importance of self-compassion along with barriers and facilitators of self-compassion for young adults who have parents with a mental illness. Implications for clinical practice and suggestions for future research are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-193
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Children of parents with mental illness
  • Parental mental illness
  • Qualitative research
  • Self-compassion
  • Young adult

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