Insecure attachment and emotional distress: Fear of self-compassion and self-compassion as mediators

Ju Ri Joeng, Sherri L. Turner, Eun Young Kim, Seung Ae Choi, Yu Jeong Lee, Jung Ki Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


According to Attachment Theory (Bowlby, 1980), individual differences in adult attachment styles are based on attachments formed during infancy with primary caregivers. Adults who form secure attachments feel safe and secure in their relationships. Those who form insecure attachments do not. According to Self-Compassion Theory (Neff, 2003a, 2003b), and supported by research, self-compassion (i.e., compassionate attitudes and behaviors towards oneself) is associated with a variety of positive psychological outcomes, while a lack of self-compassion is associated with psychological distress (e.g., Barnard & Curry, 2011). Additionally, the fear of self-compassion has been negatively associated with self-compassion (Joeng & Turner, 2015). In this current study, we extend the research on attachment and self-compassion by examining how self-compassion and fear of self-compassion mediate two types of insecure attachment styles, anxious attachment and avoidant attachment, and two indicators of emotional distress, depression and anxiety, among 473 Korean college students. Structural equation modeling indicated that self-compassion independently mediated, and fear of self-compassion and self-compassion serially mediated, the paths from anxious and avoidant attachment to depression and anxiety in expected directions. Results are interpreted from the perspective of Korean culture, including the influence of Confucianism on the expression of self-compassion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Anxiety
  • Anxious attachment
  • Avoidant attachment
  • Depression
  • Fear of self-compassion
  • Self-compassion


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