Self-compassion and social anxiety in adolescents: a systematic review of the association between shame and social anxiety and an empirical study of the relationship between selfcompassion and social anxiety in adolescents
Gill, Ciara Síobhan
Background: Compassion Focused Therapy aims to reduce shame through the development of compassion towards the self (Gilbert & Proctor, 2006). In a recent meta-analysis, MacBeth & Gumley (2012), identified self-compassion as a good predictor of mental wellbeing in adult populations. In addition, Werner et al (2012) provided preliminary evidence that difficulties with self-compassion may contribute to the development and maintenance of social anxiety. Despite wide recognition that social anxiety arises in adolescence and can be a pre-cursor to the development of other psychological disorders, the relationship between self-compassion and social anxiety is yet to be explored in younger populations. Objective: The following portfolio aims to add to the current literature by firstly, completing a systematic review to examine whether the association between shame and social anxiety is supported by empirical research and secondly, examining the relationship between self-compassion and social anxiety in an adolescent community sample. The role of recognised cognitive factors of social anxiety i.e. fear of negative evaluation, self-focused attention and cognitive avoidance in mediating the relationship between self-compassion and social anxiety and the role of possible confounders i.e. depression and generalised anxiety were also examined. Method: A systematic review of studies that assess the association between shame and social anxiety symptomology was undertaken. The empirical study comprised a cross-sectional design in which 414 community based adolescents, aged 14-18, were recruited from 4 local schools to complete 7 validated psychometric questionnaires: Self-compassion Scale (Neff, 2003), The Social Phobia Inventory (Connor et al, 2000), the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (LaGreca, 1998), The Cognitive Avoidance Questionnaire (Gosselin et al, 2002), the Self Consciousness Scales (Fenigstein et al, 1975), Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (Birmaher et al, 1995) and the Short Mood and Feeling Questionnaire (Angold et al, 1995). Systematic Review Results: Twenty one studies met the inclusion criteria of the systematic review and demonstrated a positive association between shame and social anxiety symptomology. Methodological factors, depression and gender were found to impact on the power of this association. Empirical Project Results: Self-compassion was found to be inversely related to social anxiety, r=-.551, p<.0001, 95%CI[-.62, .48], with both fear of negative evaluation and cognitive avoidance, but not self-focused attention, partially mediating this relationship. Self-compassion was found to be a unique predict of social anxiety, explaining additional variance when depression and generalised anxiety were controlled for. Conclusions: The above studies extend existing literature on the relationship between shame, social anxiety and self-compassion. In particular the use of an adolescent sample provides evidence of the usability and applicability of self-compassion concepts with younger populations. Similarly, the above studies expand our understanding of the concepts underlying social anxiety, specifically in adolescents, for whom social anxiety is extremely prevalent. It is hoped that the above research may highlight associations in need of further investigation, in particular with clinical samples, and inform the development of compassion focused adaptations or interventions for this population.