Two is More Valid Than One: Examining the Factor Structure of the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS)

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Abstract

The Self-Compassion Scale (SCS; Neff, 2003a) is the most widely used measure of self-compassion. Self-compassion, as measured by the SCS, is robustly linked to psychological health (Macbeth & Gumley, 2012; Zessin, Dickhaüser, & Garbade, 2015). The SCS is currently understood as exhibiting a higher-order structure comprised of 6 first-order factors and 1 second-order general self-compassion factor. Recently, some researchers have questioned the internal validity of this 1-factor conceptualization, and posit that the SCS may instead be comprised of 2 general factors—self-compassion and self-coldness. The current paper provides an in-depth examination of the internal structure of the SCS using oblique, higher-order, and bifactor structural models in a sample of 1,115 college students. The bifactor model comprised of 2 general factors—self-compassion and self-coldness—and 6 specific factors demonstrated the best fit to the data. Results also indicated the Self-Coldness factor accounted for unique variance in depression, anxiety, and stress, whereas the Self-Compassion factor only accounted for unique variance in its association with depression, providing further evidence for the presence of 2 distinct factors. Results did not provide support for the 1-factor composition of self-compassion currently used in research. Implications for using, scoring, and interpreting the SCS are discussed.

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