Self-Compassion in Adult Survivors of Child Maltreatment: A Moderated-Mediation Analysis

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology


Department of Psychology


Catherine Zois


Previous research indicates a positive association between childhood maltreatment (CM) and adverse life outcomes, including depression, trauma symptoms, and poor interpersonal functioning. Research also suggests that early maladaptive schemas (EMS), or interpersonal beliefs formed during early interactions with abusive caregivers, may be automatically reactivated in the context of adult relationships, potentially mediating the relationship between CM and negative outcomes. However, not all individuals who experienced CM show the same pattern or severity of EMS, and not all maltreated children go on to develop depression, trauma symptoms, and relational difficulties. In previous research, self-compassion has been identified as a moderator of the path from CM to negative automatic thoughts to adult depressive symptoms, but the interaction of self-compassion with specific cognitive schemata, such as the disconnection/rejection domain of EMS, is not known. Using a moderated-mediation model with data from 228 students, I hypothesized that the disconnection/rejection domain of EMS would mediate the path from CM to the criterion variables of depression, trauma symptoms, relationship dissatisfaction, relational conflict, and reduced relational commitment, and that self-compassion would moderate this relationship according to one of two pathways, either at the path between CM and disconnection/rejection EMS, or at a later point, between disconnection/rejection EMS and the criterion variables. Results indicated significant mediation by disconnection/rejection EMS for all five outcomes, but moderation by self-compassion was not significant at the path from EMS to any of the criterion variables. However, when incorporated at an earlier point, between CM and EMS, analyses revealed a moderating effect of self-compassion on the path from CM to mistrust/abuse schemas in predicting reduced relational commitment, such that the model was weakened at high levels of self-compassion and strengthened at low levels of self-compassion. This finding was especially significant for survivors of emotional abuse. Study implications and limitations are discussed.


Psychology, Experimental Psychology, childhood maltreatment, early maladaptive schemas, depression, trauma symptoms, relationship satisfaction, relational conflict, relational commitment, moderated-mediation

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