Effects of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training on Parenting Interactions and Children’s Empathy

Ashleigh M. Engbretson, Julie A. Poehlmann-Tynan, Carolyn J. Zahn-Waxler, Abra J. Vigna, Emily D. Gerstein, Charles L. Raison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) aims to cultivate participants’ compassion and enhance their well-being. CBCT was developed for college students and has been adapted for several unique populations, such as children in foster care, but it has only recently been used with parents of infants and young children. This analysis of data from a preliminary efficacy study examined effects of CBCT on parenting interactions and early empathy in infants and young children (aged 9 months to 5 years, 4 months). The study also examined the perceived benefits and challenges of participating in a 20-h CBCT intervention for parents. Methods: Thirty-nine families from university-affiliated preschools participated in this study; 25 parents were in the CBCT group and 14 parents were in a wait list control group. Parents were evaluated before and after the intervention, as well as after each session on their impressions of the class and experience with the assignments. Families were evaluated at pre- and post-intervention on observed parent-child interactions and child empathy. Results: Parents found that participating in CBCT was a positive, even life-changing experience for them, though finding time to practice the guided meditations was difficult. However, CBCT did not improve sensitive and responsive interactions between parents and children or young children’s empathy assessed in a lab setting. Conclusions: CBCT for parents was viewed positively by participants but it did not change their observed parenting interactions or young children’s observed empathy across a 3-month period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2841-2852
Number of pages12
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Mindfulness
  • Parenting
  • Young children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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