Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 1098–1109 | Cite as

Does Self-Compassion Protect Adolescents from Stress?

  • Karen BluthEmail author
  • Patricia N. E. Roberson
  • Susan A. Gaylord
  • Keturah R. Faurot
  • Karen M. Grewen
  • Samantha Arzon
  • Susan S. Girdler
Original Paper


The aim of this study was to determine whether adolescents who were high in self-compassion self-reported different levels of emotional wellbeing than adolescents who were low in self-compassion, and to determine whether those high in self-compassion responded differently under a lab social stressor than those low in self-compassion. In a lab setting, participants (age 13–18; n = 28) completed the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and physiological stress was assessed via salivary cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure, and heart rate variability at baseline, during the TSST, and during recovery. After completing the lab protocol, an email was sent to participants that provided a link to an online survey which was composed of emotional wellbeing measures including perceived stress, life satisfaction, positive and negative affect. After conducting repeated measure ANOVAS to determine that the TSST induced a significant stress response, the sample was split at the median of self-compassion. T tests were conducted to determine meaningful differences (Hedges’ g > .20) between the groups. Findings indicated that those in the high self-compassion group (≥the median) self-reported greater emotional wellbeing than those in the low self-compassion group (<the median). Overall, those in the high self-compassion group also had a lower physiologic stress response when exposed to the TSST than those in the low self-compassion group. Regression analyses were also conducted; baseline self-compassion predicted self-reported emotional wellbeing, but did not predict physiological response to the TSST. Findings support the potential buffering effect that self-compassion may have in protecting adolescents from social stressors; yet more research needs to be conducted in larger samples to confirm and replicate these findings.


Adolescents Self-compassion Emotional well-being Physiological stress Trier Social Stress Test 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Bluth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patricia N. E. Roberson
    • 3
  • Susan A. Gaylord
    • 2
  • Keturah R. Faurot
    • 2
  • Karen M. Grewen
    • 2
  • Samantha Arzon
    • 2
  • Susan S. Girdler
    • 2
  1. 1.Program on Integrative Medicine, School of Medicine, CR #7200University of North Carolina-Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.University of North Carolina-Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxvilleUSA

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