Does Self-Compassion Mitigate the Association Between Childhood Maltreatment and Later Emotion Regulation Difficulties? A Preliminary Investigation

  • Lisa C. VetteseEmail author
  • Catherine E. Dyer
  • Wing Ling Li
  • Christine Wekerle


Child maltreatment-related outcomes range from no symptom expression to suicide. Increasingly, the diverse presentations have been conceptualized as core system dysregulation, including emotion dysregulation. Self-compassion has been advanced as a self-regulation strategy for countering negative self-directed emotions. This study explored whether individual differences in self-compassion would play a role in loosening the associations among childhood maltreatment severity and later emotion regulation difficulties. The sample consisted of transition-age youth (N = 81) seeking treatment for problem substance use. Self-compassion was negatively associated with emotion regulation difficulties and childhood maltreatment, and predicted emotion dysregulation above and beyond maltreatment history, current severity of psychological distress, and problem substance use. In addition, self-compassion mediated the relationship between childhood maltreatment severity and later emotion dysregulation. These findings provide an impetus for further research into the relevance of self-compassion for maltreatment-related impairment.


Childhood maltreatment Emotion regulation Problem substance use Self-compassion Transition-age youth 



This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) fellowship (L. Vettese, PI) and CIHR Institute of Gender and Health New Emerging Team grant (C. Wekerle, PI; Sponsor # VGH-63212). Dr. Wekerle acknowledges career support from CIHR IGH and the Ontario Women’s Health Council, and a Public Health Agency of Canada Interchange Canada contract. Our deepest gratitude is extended to the participants in this research, the youth addictions treatment program, and others who provided consultation at various parts of this project, including Dr. Tony Toneatto, Dr. Shelley McMain, Dr. Bruce Ballon, Joanne Shenfeld, Lawren Taylor, and Dr. Russell Callaghan, or assisted with screening or data collection for this project, including Jenny Wang, Chani Dedunupitiya, Julia Lecce, Tu Luu, Kristin Chong, and Nigel Kingwell.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa C. Vettese
    • 4
    Email author
  • Catherine E. Dyer
    • 1
  • Wing Ling Li
    • 2
  • Christine Wekerle
    • 3
  1. 1.Children’s Mental Health OntarioTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Center for Child DevelopmentHong Kong Baptist UniversityKowloon TongHong Kong
  3. 3.McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  4. 4.Advance HealthTorontoCanada

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