Empirical studies indicate that people who harshly criticize themselves are likely to suffer from a range of psychological problems. Depression is one of the common psychological problems suffered by self-critical people (e.g., Cantazaro & Wei, 2010; Mongrain & Leather, 2006). However, despite observed relationships between self-criticism and depressive symptoms, there has been little to no investigation of the mechanisms in play in the prediction of depressive symptoms among self-critical people. The present study is an investigation of the relationship between self-criticism and depressive symptoms as mediated by fear of compassion, self-compassion, and the feeling that one is important to others dimension of one's perceptions of social support (aka perceptions of social support). To model these relationships, the Self-Criticism/Compassion Mediation model was developed and tested via Structural Equation Modeling. Undergraduate students at a midwestern university participated in the study and completed an online survey. A total of 206 completed surveys were analyzed. Goodness-of-fit indicators (e.g., CFI, TLI and RMSEA) showed that the Self-Criticism/Compassion Mediation model fit the data adequately. In this model, three-path mediated effects (Taylor, MacKinnon, & Tein, 2007) showed that fear of compassion from self and others, self-compassion, and perceptions of social support mediated the relationship between self-criticism and depression, with self-criticism positively related to fear of compassion, which in turn was negatively related to self-compassion and perceptions of social support, respectively, which in turn were negatively related to depressive symptoms. Additionally, a two-path mediated effect showed that self-compassion mediated the relationship between self-criticism and depressive symptoms in the negative direction. These results indicate that fear of compassion could be a reason that people who are more self-critical experience more depressive symptoms. Self-critical people's fear of compassion was related negatively to self-compassion in this model, indicating that the more afraid a person is of compassion, the less self-compassion that person has. Another reason, as indicated by these results, is that people who have a greater fear of compassion perceive others are not interested in them, which then leads to higher levels of depressive symptoms. In addition, a lack of self-compassion itself could also explain the relationship between self-criticism and depressive symptoms. The author of this study examined reversed relationships among the study variables, acknowledging that these relationships may also be interpreted in the other direction, and found the current interpretation is not only consistent with theory, but also fits the data better.These findings suggest that to reduce self-critical people's depressive symptoms, it is important to help them manage their fears of receiving compassion from self and others, to develop self-compassion, and to learn to reach out for social support. Implications for practice and future studies are discussed.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2014. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Sherri L. Turner, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 90 pages.
Joeng, Ju Ri.
The mediating roles of fear of Compassion from self and others, self-compassion, and perceptions of social support on the relationships between self-criticism and depressive symptoms.
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