An examination of self-compassion among Canadian youth with and without a caregiving role
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Self-compassion occurs when people apply the same compassion towards themselves as they would towards others (Neff, 2003a, 2003b). Self-compassion has been shown to relate to positive mental health outcomes, such as reduced depression and lower anxiety (Neff 2003a), as well as increased happiness and optimism (Neff et al., 2007), but has yet to be studied with young carers (YCs), who provide significant care and compassion to family members due to various circumstances (e.g., illness, disability, substance use, language barriers, and age-related needs; Bleakney, 2014; Charles, 2011; Charles et al., 2009), leaving limited time for other activities, friends, or self-care (Sexton, 2017; Stamatopoulos, 2018; Szafran et al., 2016). This dissertation examined 1. Self-compassion in youth ages 12-18 years, by exploring its potential correlates; 2. Self-compassion in the context of caregiving for others via focus groups with 33 YCs; and 3. Self-compassion and Subjective Well-Being (SWB) among YCs (n = 55) in comparison to non-caregiving youth (n = 107). Study 1 found that while sex and age did not relate to self-compassion, positive affect, life satisfaction, honesty and humility, and agreeableness were positively related to self-compassion, and negative affect and emotionality were negatively associated with it. Study 2 revealed that caregiving for others may have reduced YCs’ time for self-compassion, thereby possibly showing lower self-compassion. Finally, Study 3 found that YCs and non-YCs showed similar levels of self-compassion and SWB, which suggested that even though caregiving responsibilities may come in a way of self-compassion, it did not do so significantly. YCs’ SWB was also not any lower than their non-caregiving peers, which could be indicative of some hidden protective mechanism at play, such as resiliency. Implications for interventions and program modifications were discussed.