Linking Self-Compassion and Prosocial Behavior in Adolescents: The Mediating Roles of Relatedness and Trust

Abstract

Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness rather than harsh judgement, viewing imperfection as an inherent part of shared human experience rather than seeing them as isolating, and being mindful of painful feelings rather than over-identifying with them. Abundant evidence has identified the adaptive role of self-compassion on multiple intrapersonal outcomes, such as mental health, emotional well-being and improvement motivation. However, relatively few is known about self-compassion’s interpersonal/social benefits, especially in adolescents. The present study examined the relationships between self-compassion, satisfaction of relatedness, general trust, and prosocial behavior in a relatively large Chinese high school adolescent sample (N = 3238, 47.8% boys; Mage = 15.66 years, SD = 0.80). We observed that self-compassion was positively associated with adolescents’ prosocial behavior, and that relatedness and trust mediated the positive association. Moreover, we found that boys maintained a slightly higher level of self-compassion than girls, and multi-group analysis showed that the relationship between self-compassion and trust was also slightly greater in boys than girls. The present study sheds light on how self-compassion is associated with positive social behavior in adolescents. We suggest that self-compassion intervention could be adapted and implemented during this critical developmental period. More research is encouraged to further discover the adaptive functions of self-compassion in social context.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Akın, A. (2010). Self-compassion and loneliness. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 2(3), 702–718.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Akın, U., & Akın, A. (2015). Examining the predictive role of self-compassion on sense of community in Turkish adolescents. Social Indicators Research, 123(1), 29–38.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Alizadeh, S., Khanahmadi, S., Vedadhir, A., & Barjasteh, S. (2018). The relationship between resilience with self-compassion, social support and sense of belonging in women with breast cancer. Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention: APJCP, 19(9), 2469–2474.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Allen, A. B., & Leary, M. R. (2010). Self-compassion, stress, and coping. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4(2), 107–118.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Barnard, L. K., & Curry, J. F. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15(4), 289–303.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Blatt, S. J., & Zuroff, D. C. (1992). Interpersonal relatedness and self-definition: Two prototypes for depression. Clinical Psychology Review, 12(5), 527–562.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bloch, J. (2018). Self-compassion, social connectedness, and interpersonal competence. Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 11224.

  9. Bluth, K., Campo, R. A., Futch, W. S., & Gaylord, S. A. (2017). Age and gender differences in the associations of self-compassion and emotional well-being in a large adolescent sample. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46(4), 840–853.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Boellinghaus, I., Jones, F. W., & Hutton, J. (2014). The role of mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation in cultivating self-compassion and other-focused concern in health care professionals. Mindfulness, 5(2), 129–138.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133–1143.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Chen, B., Vansteenkiste, M., Beyers, W., Boone, L., Deci, E. L., Van der Kaap-Deeder, J., ... & Ryan, R. M. (2015). Basic psychological need satisfaction, need frustration, and need strength across four cultures. Motivation and Emotion, 39(2), 216-236.

  13. Crocker, J., & Canevello, A. (2008). Creating and undermining social support in communal relationships: the role of compassionate and self-image goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(3), 555–575.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Crockett, L., Losoff, M., & Petersen, A. C. (1984). Perceptions of the peer group and friendship in early adolescence. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 4(2), 155–181.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The" what" and" why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.

    Google Scholar 

  16. DeVore, R. (2013). Analysis of gender differences in self-statements and mood disorders. McNair Scholars Research Journal, 9, 7.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., & Spinrad, T. L. (2006). Prosocial development. In W. Damon, R. M. Lerner & N. Eisenberg (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 646–718). New York: Wiley.

  18. Gagné, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientation in prosocial behavior engagement. Motivation and Emotion, 27(3), 199–223.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Gummerum, M., & Keller, M. (2008). Affection, virtue, pleasure, and profit: Developing an understanding of friendship closeness and intimacy in western and Asian societies. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32(3), 218–231.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Guo, Y. (2017). The influence of social support on the prosocial behavior of college students: The mediating effect based on interpersonal trust. English Language Teaching, 10(12), 158–163.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural equation modeling: a multidisciplinary journal, 6(1), 1–55.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Irwin, K. (2009). Prosocial behavior across cultures: The effects of institutional versus generalized trust. In Altruism and prosocial behavior in groups (pp. 165-198). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

  23. Jennings, M. K., & Stoker, L. (2004). Social trust and civic engagement across time and generations. Acta politica, 39(4), 342–379.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Joeng, J. R., & Turner, S. L. (2015). Mediators between self-criticism and depression: Fear of compassion, self-compassion, and importance to others. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(3), 453.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kuhl, M., & Boyraz, G. (2017). Mindfulness, general trust, and social support among trauma-exposed college students. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 22(2), 150–162.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Lindsay, E. K., & Creswell, J. D. (2014). Helping the self help others: Self-affirmation increases self-compassion and pro-social behaviors. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 421.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9(2), 151–173.

  28. Little, T. D., Rhemtulla, M., Gibson, K., & Schoemann, A. M. (2013). Why the items versus parcels controversy needn’t be one. Psychological Methods, 18(3), 285.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Liu, M., & Wang, C. (2010). Explaining the influence of anger and compassion on negotiators’ interaction goals: An assessment of trust and distrust as two distinct mediators. Communication Research, 37(4), 443–472.

    Google Scholar 

  30. MacKinnon, D. P., Lockwood, C. M., & Williams, J. (2004). Confidence limits for the indirect effect: Distribution of the product and resampling methods. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 39(1), 99–128.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Maxwell, S. E., & Cole, D. A. (2007). Bias in cross-sectional analyses of longitudinal mediation. Psychological Methods, 12(1), 23–44.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Neff, K. D. (2003a). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–102.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Neff, K. D. (2003b). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Neff, K. D. (2009). Self-compassion. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 561–573). Guilford Press.

  35. Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Neff, K. D., & Beretvas, S. N. (2013). The role of self-compassion in romantic relationships. Self and Identity, 12(1), 78–98.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28–44.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Neff, K. D., & Pommier, E. (2013). The relationship between self-compassion and other-focused concern among college undergraduates, community adults, and practicing meditators. Self and Identity, 12(2), 160–176.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Neff, K., & Seppälä, E. (2016). Compassion, well-being, and the hypo-egoic self. In The oxford handbook of hypo-egoic phenomena. Oxford University Press.

  40. Neff, K. D., Hsieh, Y. P., & Dejitterat, K. (2005). Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self and Identity, 4(3), 263–287.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007a). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of research in personality, 41(1), 139–154.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Neff, K. D., Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. L. (2007b). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(4), 908–916.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Neff, K. D., Pisitsungkagarn, K., & Hsieh, Y. P. (2008). Self-compassion and self-construal in the United States, Thailand, and Taiwan. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39(3), 267–285.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Hilt, L. M., Gotlib, I. H., & Hammen, C. L. (2009). Handbook of depression. Guilford, New York, 386.

  45. Pavey, L., Greitemeyer, T., & Sparks, P. (2011). Highlighting relatedness promotes prosocial motives and behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(7), 905–917.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Raes, F., Pommier, E., Neff, K. D., & Van Gucht, D. (2011). Construction and factorial validation of a short form of the self-compassion scale. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 18(3), 250–255.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Rotenberg, K. J. (1991). The trust-value basis of children’s friendship. In Children’s interpersonal trust (pp. 160–172). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Rotenberg, K. J., Boulton, M. J., & Fox, C. L. (2005). Cross-sectional and longitudinal relations among children's trust beliefs, psychological maladjustment and social relationships: Are very high as well as very low trusting children at risk? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 33(5), 595–610.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Rotter, J. B. (1967). A new scale for the measurement of interpersonal trust 1. Journal of Personality, 35(4), 651–665.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Rotter, J. B. (1980). Interpersonal trust, trustworthiness, and gullibility. American Psychologist, 35(1), 1.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. Guilford Publications.

  52. Shiraki, Y., & Igarashi, T. (2018). “Paying it forward” via satisfying a basic human need: The need for relatedness satisfaction mediates gratitude and prosocial behavior. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 21(1-2), 107–113.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Sirois, F. M., Kitner, R., & Hirsch, J. K. (2015). Self-compassion, affect, and health-promoting behaviors. Health Psychology, 34(6), 661.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Solomon, L. (1960). The influence of some types of power relationships and game strategies upon the development of interpersonal trust. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 61(2), 223–230.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Sturgis, P., Patulny, R., Allum, N., & Buscha, F. (2012). Social connectedness and generalized trust: a longitudinal perspective. ISER Working Paper Series, 2012-19, 1–23.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Sutton, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Wu, A. D., & Lawlor, M. S. (2018). Evaluating the reliability and validity of the self-compassion scale short form adapted for children ages 8–12. Child Indicators Research, 11(4), 1217–1236.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Taniguchi, H., & Marshall, G. A. (2014). The effects of social trust and institutional trust on formal volunteering and charitable giving in Japan. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 25(1), 150–175.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Tian, L., Zhang, X., & Huebner, E. S. (2018). The effects of satisfaction of basic psychological needs at school on children’s prosocial behavior and antisocial behavior: The mediating role of school satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 548.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Welp, L. R., & Brown, C. M. (2014). Self-compassion, empathy, and helping intentions. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(1), 54–65.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Wentzel, K. R. (1991). Relations between social competence and academic achievement in early adolescence. Child Development, 62(5), 1066–1078.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Yamagishi, T., & Yamagishi, M. (1994). Trust and commitment in the United States and Japan. Motivation and Emotion, 18(2), 129–166.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Yang, Y., & Kou, Y. (2017). The effect of prosocial autonomous motivation on adolescents’ well-being and prosocial behavior: The mediating role of basic psychological needs satisfaction. Psychological Development and Education, 33(2), 163–171.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Yang, Y., Zhang, M., & Kou, Y. (2016a). Self-compassion and life satisfaction: The mediating role of hope. Personality and Individual Differences, 98, 91–95.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Yang, Y., Zhang, M., & Kou, Y. (2016b). The revalidation and development of the prosocial behavior scale for adolescent. Chinese Social Psychological Review, 10, 135–150.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Yang, Y., Li, P., Fu, X., & Kou, Y. (2017). Orientations to happiness and subjective well-being in chinese adolescents: The roles of prosocial behavior and internet addictive behavior. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(6), 1747–1762.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Yang, Y., Li, W., Sheldon, K. M. & Kou, Y. (2018). Chinese adolescents with higher social dominance orientation are less prosocial and less happy: A Value-Environment Fit Analysis. International Journal of Psychology, online. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijop.12474

    Google Scholar 

  67. Yarnell, L. M., & Neff, K. D. (2013). Self-compassion, interpersonal conflict resolutions, and well-being. Self and Identity, 12(2), 146–159.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Yarnell, L. M., Stafford, R. E., Neff, K. D., Reilly, E. D., Knox, M. C., & Mullarkey, M. (2015). Meta-analysis of gender differences in self-compassion. Self and Identity, 14(5), 499–520.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the MOE Project of Key Research Institutes of Humanities and Social Science at Universities (16JJD880007), Research Institute of Wang Yangming's Philosophy of Mind & Current Social Mentality of Confucius Academy (KXTXT201704), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2018ECNU-HLYT022).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yu Kou.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Yang, Y., Guo, Z., Kou, Y. et al. Linking Self-Compassion and Prosocial Behavior in Adolescents: The Mediating Roles of Relatedness and Trust. Child Ind Res 12, 2035–2049 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-019-9623-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Self-compassion
  • Relatedness
  • Trust
  • Prosocial behavior