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Exploring the contribution of psychological flexibility processes and self-compassion to depression, anxiety and adjustment in parents of preterm infants (Pages 149-159)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 24, April 2022, Pages 149-159


Úna O'Boyle-Finnegan, Christopher D. Graham, Nicola Doherty, Pauline Adair



The preterm birth and subsequent hospitalisation of an infant is a challenging time for parents, leaving many parents vulnerable to depression, anxiety and difficulties with adjustment. Psychological flexibility and self-compassion have been theorised to enable effective functioning in such challenging contexts, which may help us understand variation in parental experiences and adjustment.


To investigate the extent to which psychological flexibility sub-processes (valued action, behavioural awareness, and openness to experience) and self-compassion explain variation in depression and anxiety and individual and relational adjustment among parents of preterm infants.


A sample of 215 parents of preterm infants were recruited via a charity for children born preterm. Data was collected via online survey and analysed using multiple hierarchical regressions.


Psychological flexibility and self-compassion were significant predictors of depression and anxiety in parents of preterm infants. Components of psychological flexibility were significant predictors of individual and relational adjustment while self-compassion was predictive of relational but not individual adjustment. However, the portion of variance accounted for by self-compassion after controlling for psychological flexibility was modest. Components of psychological flexibility but not self-compassion retained their predictive value for individual and relational adjustment when controlling for depression and anxiety.


This study provides preliminary evidence that psychological flexibility and self-compassion are helpful for understanding depression, anxiety and adjustment difficulties in parents of preterm infants and provides support for future development of acceptance-based interventions for this population.


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