Gender Differences in Self-Compassion: Examining the Role of Gender Role Orientation

Abstract

Meta-analytic research suggests that women have slightly lower levels of self-compassion than men, but the contribution of gender role orientation has not been carefully explored. The current study examines the joint associations of self-identified gender and gender role orientation with self-compassion in undergraduate (N = 504) and community adult (N = 968) samples, using two measures of gender role orientation. The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ) were used to classify each participant into a single gender role orientation category based on relative scores on the masculinity and femininity subscales, with respect to the sample, and average scores for each continuous subscale were also retained. The categorical gender role orientation classifications were used in mean comparisons of self-compassion across groups, and the average masculinity and femininity subscale scores were used in regression modeling. Results replicated the small effect size for gender differences in self-compassion for both samples, with self-identified men having significantly higher levels of self-compassion than self-identified women. Results also consistently showed that the impact of self-identified gender on self-compassion was smaller than the impact of masculine gender role orientation, suggesting that socialization plays a strong role, and that those high in both femininity and masculinity tended to have the highest levels of self-compassion. Effect sizes and specific findings differed by gender, sample, and gender role orientation measure. Therefore, a nuanced understanding of differences in self-compassion based on gender and gender role orientation is needed.

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LY: designed and executed the study, collected the college student data, conducted all submitted analyses, and wrote large portions of the paper. KN: collaborated with the design and writing of the study, including choice of statistical models and theoretical alignment. OD: collected the community sample data. MM: assisted with data analysis, literature search, and writing. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

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Correspondence to Lisa M. Yarnell.

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No funding was received for this study. All procedures performed 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. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Both parts of the data collection (undergraduate and community) were reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Texas at Austin.

Conflict of Interest

Lisa M. Yarnell declares that she has no conflicts of interest. Kristin D. Neff is co-creator of the Mindful Self-Compassion program, described in this manuscript. Oliver A. Davidson declares that he has no conflicts of interest. Michael Mullarkey declares that he has no conflicts of interest.

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Yarnell, L.M., Neff, K.D., Davidson, O.A. et al. Gender Differences in Self-Compassion: Examining the Role of Gender Role Orientation. Mindfulness 10, 1136–1152 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-1066-1

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Keywords

  • Self-compassion
  • Gender differences
  • Gender role orientation
  • Self-compassion training