Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Self-Stigma Vs. Self-Compassion: A Cross-Sectional Study Examining the Disclosure of Parental Incarceration to Children (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

693P (see Poster Gallery) Self-Stigma Vs. Self-Compassion: A Cross-Sectional Study Examining the Disclosure of Parental Incarceration to Children

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Helen Yingjie Yu, Research Assistant, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Cynthia Sze-ling Fung, MA, Research Executive, HKU, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Yl Fung, PhD, Dr., The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Sandra Kit Man Tsang, PhD, Associate Professor, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Celia Chan, PhD, Associate Professor, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Background and Purpose

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to “learn and find out the truth”. Ambiguous Loss Theory states that uncertainty regarding the absence of the main caregiver may be traumatizing for the child as it hinders coping. However, a sizable portion of caregivers in Hong Kong (41.67%) did not disclose the status and/or reasons of absence of parent(s) due to incarceration to the inmates’ children. Past research has shown that parents’ or caregivers’ self-stigma would lead to concealment of negative experience, whereas self-compassion, a nonjudgmental understanding of one’s failures, could facilitate open disclosure of the information about parental incarceration. The current study examined the differences between self-stigma and self-compassion as predictors of both disclosure behaviors and tendency regarding incarceration of the parent(s) to the children, as well as disclosure behaviors as a continuous or dichotomous variable to capture the multifaceted nature of information regarding incarceration.


The study adopted a cross-sectional, correlational research design. Seventy-one ex-offender parents and caregivers (Mage = 44.95, SDage = 13.62) of children with an incarcerated parent were recruited through community organizations. Participants were required to complete a battery of self-administered questionnaires including: (i) Self-Stigma Scale Short Form evaluating cognitive, affective, and behavioral self-stigma (Cronbach’s α = .93); (ii) Self-Compassion Scale Short Form measuring different components of self-compassion (α = .74) such as self-kindness and common humanity; (iii) agreement with reasons for both voluntary (α = .88) and involuntary disclosure (α = .53) of parental incarceration to inmates’ children; and (iii) 7-item self-constructed scale measuring the extent of actual information disclosed to children (α = .92).


Linear regression models were run to examine the impact of demographic variables and agreement with reasons of voluntary and involuntary disclosure on disclosure extent. Child age positively predicted disclosure extent, B =.34, SE =.09, p <.001. Agreement with reasons of both voluntary disclosure, B =.48, SE =.10, p <.001, and involuntary disclosure, B =.33, SE =.16, p =.04, positively predicted disclosure extent. Self-stigma among participants negatively predicted self-compassion, B = -.49, SE =.12, p<.001, and self-compassion positively predicted agreement with voluntary disclosure, B =.12, SE =.05, p =.02. A simple mediation analysis was performed using PROCESS. The indirect effect of self-stigma on voluntary disclosure through self-compassion was significant, B =-.06, SE =.03, 95% CI[-.13, -.02], p =.04.

Conclusions and Implications

The study contributes to a deeper understanding of parent-child communication and information management in families with an incarcerated parent. It also highlights the role of self-stigma in relation to the concealment and disclosure of parental incarceration from and to children. Its results have practical implications as social workers may incorporate the cultivation of self-compassion, which includes self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness in their work with families with an incarcerated parent. Finally, the study also elucidates the non-dichotomous nature of information management (i.e., diversity in the aspects of information to be revealed).