Compassionate Love & Parenting


A new research study published in Developmental Psychology, shows the benefits of compassionate love that mothers feel for their children. Researchers asked mothers to complete questionnaires (measuring compassionate love, parenting styles, etc.) and attend a 2.5 hour laboratory visit where they would complete a puzzle task and challenging origami task with their child while being video recorded. Researchers also measured the physiological activity  during both tasks.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that compassionate love was related to parenting styles characterized by warmth and less negativity. Of particular interest was that compassionate love appeared to be a protective factor against harsher styles of parenting as demonstrated during the challenging origami task. In other words, while ‘compassionate’ mothers did show a similar physical response to the stress of the task, they were better equipped to respond to challenges during the task by avoiding  harsh parenting techniques.

There were a number of interesting findings in this article, but at the end of the day, findings highlight the importance of providing resources to parents that promote compassionate love towards their children. In a sense, these results align with everything that we know to be true when thinking about promoting positive relationships between children & parents, however it is always wonderful to show that current research is lending support to back the anecdotal evidence that is seen every day.

“…Despite being physiologically stressed, the caring humanism and other-focused goals that underlie a compassionate orientation to caregiving provided mothers with resources they could draw on to avoid resorting to a “fight-or-flight” style of harsh parenting.”

Compassionate love buffers stress-reactive mothers from fight-or-flight parenting. Miller, Jonas G.; Kahle, Sarah; Lopez, Monica; Hastings, Paul D. Developmental Psychology, Vol 51(1), Jan 2015, 36-43. Special Section: Mindfulness and Compassion in Human Development.

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