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The construct of self-compassion shows substantial overlap with neuroticism

Press release: "Old wine in new bottles? The case of self-compassion and neuroticism"

Dr. Stefan Pfattheicher and colleagues have recently published an article in the European Journal of Personality, entitled “Old wine in new bottles? The case of self-compassion and neuroticism”. In a sample of 576 participants, Pfattheicher and colleagues examined the content and statistical properties of a popular questionnaire intended to measure self-compassion – the tendency to be understanding and kind to oneself when confronted with negative experiences. Results of the researchers’ examination suggest that a large part of self-compassion and its relation to important life outcomes can be attributed to the personality trait of neuroticism – the tendency to experience negative emotions and cognitions. The results of this study were published in the March/April issue of 2017 of the European Journal of Personality.

In their study, Pfattheicher and colleagues examined the distinctiveness of self-compassion from the five-factor model of personality. Specifically, they investigated whether self-compassion could be seen as statistically different from neuroticism, and whether or not it could predict individual differences in life satisfaction beyond that which can already be predicted by neuroticism. Their findings indicate that self-compassion consisted of two factors – a positive (reflecting the presence of self-compassion) and a negative factor (reflecting negative emotionality and harsh self-judgements), and that this negative factor was largely captured by the trait of neuroticism. Moreover, neither of the two factors predicted differences in life satisfaction beyond that which was already explained by neuroticism.

Recently, the European Journal of Personality published a follow up on this initial paper by Dr. Pfattheicher and colleagues with a reply to comments provided by Neff, Tóth-Király, and Colosimo.

Taken together, based on the initial research by Pfattheicher and colleagues and the follow up, it appears that self-compassion as a construct overlaps greatly with neuroticism.

Correspondence about this research may be addressed to Dr. Pfattheicher, Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C., Denmark. Dr. Pfattheicher can be contacted via email at

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