The Experience of Self-Compassion in Mothers of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Cockerill, V. 2023. The Experience of Self-Compassion in Mothers of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis
AuthorsCockerill, V.
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Health and Social Care Practice

Background: Compassion research has seen a significant rise in interest over the last two decades. This interest in compassion has developed from its potential for compassion to alleviate mental health problems and psychological distress. In this thesis, the scope of the research concerns self-compassion. Self-compassion cultivates a sensitivity to suffering and a desire to alleviate this suffering. The specific aims of this thesis relate to mothers of children with ASD showing themselves self- compassion, and the effect that this has on them. This is a relatively new area of research that has emerged in the last 7 years. The majority of research concerns the construct of self-compassion through regression and correlations studies. This thesis builds on this body of work with the new and original focus on the profound lived experience of self-compassion for these mothers.
Aims: This research aims to develop a deep and profound consideration of the experience of self-compassion in mothers of children with ASD. This is achieved through exploring the everyday experiences of these mothers and considering the impact that parenting their child with ASD has on their relationships, caring responsibilities and coping strategies.
Methods: Seven mothers of children diagnosed with ASD aged between 8 and 11 years shared their experiences of parenting. These experiences of parenting their children were then captured through a semi-structured interview. These experiences were then analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), where analysis of their responses to these experiences highlighted their displays of self- compassion.
Findings: The analysis identified four master themes associated with the experiences of normality, responsibility, burden and isolation in the parenting experience. The findings suggested that mothers were able to offer themselves self-compassionate responses of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness at times when they were enjoying positive social interactions, compassion from others and sharing positive experiences with other mothers of children with ASD. These mothers also had periods when they displayed less compassionate responses to themselves. These responses included self-judgement, isolation and the over-identification with negative cognitions and emotions. They were interpreted to be a response to the blame and judgement from others, feelings of failure and responsibility in their parenting, and a sense of loss in their normality.
Conclusion: This doctoral research has captured the human experience of seven mothers in their parenting of a child with ASD and the influencing factors on self-compassion in these mothers. It has uncovered findings that offer deep thought and consideration into the profound human experience of self-compassion in mothers of children with ASD. In the discovery of their experience, the themes of normality, responsibility, isolation and burden have been presented in a conceptual model that offers an understanding in the flow of compassion for these mothers.

KeywordsAutism, ASD, Autism, Spectrum Disorder, Self-Compassion, IPA
PublisherCollege of Health, Psychology and Social Care (University of Derby)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
File Access Level
Output statusSubmitted
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Jan 2023
Permalink -

Download files

License: CC BY-NC 4.0
File access level: Open

  • 59
    total views
  • 47
    total downloads
  • 2
    views this month
  • 2
    downloads this month

Export as