Objectives: Using a prospective longitudinal design, this paper examines a serial mediation model of the associations between self-compassion, trait mindfulness, caregiver stress, and depressive symptoms among the family caregivers of patients with lung cancer. Methods: A four-wave design was used, with initial assessment (T1) and three follow-ups, at the 2nd month (T2), the 5th month (T3), and the 8th month (T4). A total of 123 family caregivers completed the baseline measurements, including caregiver stress, self-compassion, trait mindfulness, and depressive symptoms. Data were analyzed by serial mediation models to determine the causal ordering of these variables. Results: Nearly one-quarter of the family caregivers suffered from clinically significant depressive symptoms and the severity of their depression remained unchanged throughout the 8-month follow-up period. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal path analyses revealed that the relationship between self-compassion and depressive symptoms was mediated sequentially by trait mindfulness and caregiver stress. The subscale analysis indicated that the association of higher compassionate action with fewer depressive symptoms was through chain-mediating effects of higher mindful awareness and lower caregiver stress. Conclusions: Family caregivers who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to have more mindfulness; greater mindfulness leads to lower levels of perceived caregiving stress which, in turn, links to fewer symptoms of depression. Both self-compassion and mindfulness could be regarded as protective factors for caregivers to reduce caregiving stress and depression.
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