Previous studies demonstrated that self-compassion may generate positive effects on adults’ mental health through its impact on stress responses. As adolescence is characterized by elevated levels of stress, self-compassion may be particularly relevant for this age group. The aim of this study was to assess the immediate effects of a brief training in self-compassion on adolescents’ stress recovery following a validated stress induction.
Fifty-three adolescents between 11 and 18 years old (64% girls) were randomly assigned to a self-compassion group or a control group prior to undergoing a three-phase experiment (i.e., baseline, stress induction, and instruction phase). Adolescents in the self-compassion group received a brief training in self-compassion before the start of the experiment and were asked to use the learned technique during the instruction phase. Adolescents in the control group did not receive a training and were provided with neutral instructions during the instruction phase. Physiological stress outcomes (i.e., salivary cortisol, heart rate, and heart rate variability) and self-reported stress outcomes (i.e., self-reported affect) were compared between groups.
The main results revealed no clear differences between both groups pertaining physiological and self-reported stress responses.
The current findings could not provide evidence for the beneficial effects of a brief self-compassion training among adolescents, and even suggest that it may have detrimental effects on the physiological stress response. Findings are discussed within a developmental framework and important considerations for further research are noted.