Self-compassion and empathy across cultures: Comparison of young adults in China and the United States

2014 IJRSP – Volume 3 Issue 1


Birkett, Melissa*
Northern Arizona University, USA (


A cross-cultural study was conducted to examine differences in self-compassion and empathy among Chinese and American undergraduates. Forty Chinese and 41 American undergraduates completed the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) and Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Groups did not significantly differ in overall Self-Compassion or Empathy. However, significant differences were found in the Self-Kindness, Common Humanity, Isolation, and Over-Identification SCS subscales and the Personal Distress IRI subscale (Chinese > American). American students reported significantly higher scores on the Fantasy and Empathic Concern IRI subscales. Gender differences were stable across groups.  The results of this study have implications for understanding self- and other-directed pro-social attitudes, beliefs and behaviors across cultures.

Keywords: cultural differences; Self-Compassion Survey; Interpersonal Reactivity Index; undergraduates; empathy



*Corresponding Author