Self-compassion, gratitude and prosocial behaviors

While much research to date has shown that self-compassion contributes to the psychological well-being of adolescents, it is only recently that research has begun to discuss the interpersonal and social benefits of self-compassion. 

Can self-compassion promote gratitude and pro-social behaviour in adolescents?

In one study, Yang et al. (2021) examined whether and how self-compassion is longitudinally associated with two significant other-oriented constructs: gratitude and pro-social behaviour. In other words, what interpersonal benefits could self-compassion provide? To what extent does self-compassion influence other-oriented behaviour?

Over a period of three years, 1,026 Chinese adolescents were interviewed once a year to examine the relationship between self-compassion, gratitude and pro-social behaviour.

In this study, self-compassion refers to a positive and healthy attitude towards oneself in times of distress and difficulties in life. Pro-social behaviour refers to actions taken to benefit other people and gratitude, in this study, refers to the positive perception of having benefited from the actions of other people. 

The authors explain that both gratitude and pro-social behaviour can help adolescents build social relationships.

The adolescents who participated in this study came from five different high schools in China. This group of adolescents was interviewed for three consecutive years, when they attended seventh, eighth and ninth grade. The results of this study showed that the more self-compassionate the adolescents were, the more pro-social they were and the more capable they were of appreciation and gratitude. This study thus enriches our understanding of the adaptive functions of self-compassion for adolescents’ social development.

The findings of this study are in line with previous research that has examined the effects of self-compassion on other-oriented behaviours, such as compassion, the ability to see situations from different perspectives, empathic concern for others, altruism, and intention to bring help (e.g., Neff and Pommier 2013; Yang et al. 2019).

This study enriches the understanding of the adaptive functions of self-compassion for adolescents’ social development. Self-compassion is not selfish, but rather increases feelings of gratitude towards others and promotes pro-social behaviour.

And adolescents learn self-compassion from their parents who model it by practising it in family life.

Self-compassion is one of the central pillars of Mindful Compassionate Parenting.

Here are the details of the research available in English.

Written by: Paola Bortini