Self-Compassion Moderates the Mediating Effect of Self-Criticism in the Link Between Childhood Maltreatment and Psychopathology

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Childhood maltreatment (CM) has been associated with psychological symptoms (i.e., psychopathology) among clinical and nonclinical samples. The mechanisms underlying this link have been understudied, especially among well-functioning adults. Arguably, exposure to CM may be translated into negative and critical self-appraisals and self-blame, reflected in high self-criticism. CM may also result in difficulty in extending kindness towards oneself, that is, low self-compassion. These characteristics are linked with elevated psychopathology. Nevertheless, no study has yet tested the extent to which self-criticism and self-compassion may serve as independent mechanisms linking CM and psychopathology and whether in this context self-compassion buffers the link between self-criticism and psychopathology. Here, we tested an integrative model in which the relation between CM and psychopathology was mediated by self-compassion and self-criticism, and the path between self-criticism and psychopathology was moderated by self-compassion. A convenience sample of 914 individuals completed online self-report questionnaires. Results indicated that CM was related to psychopathology through the mediation of self-compassion and self-criticism, with a significant interaction between self-criticism and self-compassion. Showing a moderated-mediational effect, the link between self-criticism and psychopathology was weaker under high than under low levels of self-compassion. Our findings highlight the importance of self-compassion, a robust resilience factor related to reduced psychopathology and moderating the link between self-criticism, a potent transdiagnostic risk factor, and psychopathology in the context of CM. These results thus provide empirical evidence for the relevance of compassion and mindfulness in counseling settings, particularly with CM survivors, who are at greater risk for psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This project received funding from the Haruv Institute. Role of the Funding Source: Haruv Institute did not take any part in the study except of providing seed money.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • childhood maltreatment
  • psychopathology
  • resilience
  • self-compassion
  • self-criticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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